Last year at this time, I was student teaching. I taught a lesson on September 11th to my students, and, while I may be mistaken, I’m pretty sure I was required to.
This year, there was an announcement on the PA system commemorating the anniversary. I had to force my students to be quiet during a moment of silence. The moment passed, and nobody seemed reflective of it. They seemed pretty unaffected by it, which is normal I suppose– to them, September 11th is something that happened in history. They were too little to understand or even remember it, and that’s how it will be every year that I teach.
So, instead, I started our Culture unit in World History with a lesson on cultural groups, stereotypes, and diversity, and, as my students worked in groups, I ended up silently reflecting on my own experiences over the past 12 years.
I’m 23.5 years old. For more than half of my life, I have lived in a post-9/11 world. I’m part of a generation who is one of the last generations to remember a time where airport security wasn’t beefed up, when September 11th used to just be another day in the first or second week of school, and when the Twin Towers were part of the NYC skyline in real life, not just in “old” movies.
When September 11th happened, I was scared. I was convinced World War III would be starting, and I spent much of the months following September 11th believing unexpected warfare and death was lurking around the corner. I also said “God Bless America” a lot, even though I wasn’t a particularly religious or patriotic child. I think, like a lot of Americans, the phrase provided some sort of unity and comfort that I needed at that time.
I was a scared little girl, and I coped the best that I could– I discovered writing.
So, for the generations to come that will only view September 11th as a day in the History books, much like I grew up viewing Pearl Harbor, I share with you my diary entry from September 11th, 2001, and my follow-up entry on September 11th, 2002. There were plenty of panicked entries in between, and I tried very hard to write like a journalist– I think I was attempting to create a time capsule of some sort in case the terrorists “got us.”
I wish I could give 11.5 year old me a hug and tell her everything would be okay, just a new sort of normal, but I don’t think a hug and words of reassurance could have calmed my nerves. September 11th, 2001 was– and is– a scary, emotional, life-changing day, and my raw feelings are something that my students will never be able to understand.
So, hug a loved one tonight, and remember not only those who were lost, but the moment your life was changed or touched in some way.
Somehow, I thought this spiral notebook would survive the end of the world. I really thought my words would be a time capsule for generations to come in a post-9/11 world.