Why We Remember

Kaitlin Bethay, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Apathetic—One of the most frequently used adjectives to describe today’s teenagers.  We simply “do not care about anyone except ourselves.” Normally, I would plant my hands firmly on my hips, furrow my brow and condemn such a statement. However, recently I heard something that made me second-guess my argument.

“Why should I even care about September 11?”

This question alone made me question my generation. “Why should I even care about September 11?” Perhaps the reason for such ignorance lies in that our generation has seen and heard about tragedy since birth. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, war, death toll. We hear it on the news, from our parents, and at school. Could we possibly be desensitized?

Perhaps, but that is no excuse for not observing the implications of such an absolutely horrific event that occurred just a little over a decade ago.

“Well, it didn’t really affect me.”

Most of us did not have family members that died in the attacks, I understand, but to say that such a heinous event has not touched our lives in the slightest is not only ignorant, but also offensive. Our country went to war. The economy suffered a huge blow. National Security was never the same. The affect might not have been direct, but it reached everyone. It has shaped our lives in ways we cannot imagine.

Bonnie McLaughlin, AP World History and World Geography teacher, showed a video in all of her classes on 9/11 to help them gain some perspective.

“Being a military wife then, and my husband is in the National Guard now, makes it is such a strong thing for me,” Mrs. McLaughlin said. “We were physically attacked and we had people within our country that were killed just like we see on the news in Iraq or Syria. Those were our people and it becomes not just that mess of building coming down, it becomes part of our country.”

3, 497—The total number of deaths resulting from 9/11. Most were civilians, just like us. They had futures and families. The average age of those killed was only 40.

“It was parents, people going to work, it was your mom and dad, it was my generation of young, upwardly mobile people,” Mrs. Zell, AP English IV teacher, said. “I remember that day I was in Keller High School and I was looking around the room at how many of the students had family members that worked for airlines. There were a lot. There were a lot of kids scared that day because their parents worked for American or Southwest.”

High school students were not the kids ones gripped with fear. Kindergarteners, our peers, were confused and frightened when the towers collapsed. Junior Matt Gustaveson remembers how he felt on that day.

“Back in ’01 my family and I lived in Tennessee,” Gustaveson said. “Both of my parents traveled a lot because of work and I stayed with my grandparents down the street.”

Guvstaveson’s parents and grandparents were the first to move from New York. Most of his extended family still lived there during the attacks.

“On the morning of the attack my mom had left early that morning to go on a trip.” Gustaveson said. “She is a flight attendant for American Airlines and at the time she was based at JFK. I specifically remember my grandma crying and talking on the phone for the longest time.”

Gustaveson’s mother was not picking up her phone and neither was his uncle, who worked in Manhattan.

“It took a while, but my grandma was able to get ahold of my uncle. He basically told her that he was alive, but Manhattan was being evacuated before he had to hang up. We did’t get to talk to my mom for a while. She didn’t get home for a week or so, since all flights were grounded.”

Not all of Gustaveson’s family members were so lucky. His father lost a cousin who worked in the North Tower on one of the floors initially hit in the first attack.

“For a couple of years the family thought he died on impact. However, through dental analysis of remains they found, authorities said that it is more likely that he lived through the initial crash and was one of the people who jumped.”

Gustaveson’s family was fortunate in that authorities were able to identify their loved one. According to a Daily News article published this past year, of the 2,750 people that died at the World Trade Center, only 1, 634 have been identified.

I cannot ask my peers to comprehend something so horrific, nor can I pretend I comprehend the sorrow and anguish people felt as the towers burned, smoked, and crumpled. I do not believe we can fully grasp what happened at Ground Zero unless we actually lived through it. Such a loss of life in such a modern age, in such a modern country, can only be described as surreal. We do not understand and we never will, however, that does not mean we should not try our best to empathize and reflect.

“It has affected our generation in so many ways,” Gustaveson said. “I understand moving forward is good, but moving forward and forgetting about it are two completely different things. It’s a part of our history that we can’t overlook.”