Enlightening 9/11 generation

By Stephen Wiederhorn, Contributing Writer ||

Sept. 11th is a day everyone should remember. It has come to symbolize an international day of remembrance and mourning, during which citizens of the world remember the tragedy itself and those people who unfortunately lost their lives. All my life I have seen such tremendous coverage of this event: the videos, the speeches, and the bystanders who tell their stories about that day. I feel that, for most people, it is easy to remember exactly what they were doing and easy to recall the feelings they experienced and still experience to this day. However the new generation, our generation, has a hard time grasping the event. We were so young when it happened that we only remember bits and pieces of that day and may fail to understand its significance.

It’s so strange how it happened that way. How we, the youngest members of society, are not able to experience this event in the same way everyone else does. Even all the media coverage and the videos we watch do not change the fact that it is hard for us to relate. It’s as if growing up with it has made us accustomed to the news and familiarity of 9/11 in our lives. For us it is hard to separate the physical news of this event and the emotions that are associated with it.

I feel that our age is still to blame for this. When we heard about 9/11 for the first time we could somewhat understand what had happened but, unlike everyone else, we did not, or even could not, possess the emotions that everyone else felt. We were left wondering why everyone was so sad and so in shock. And maybe at the time that was a good thing. We were blocked from the heartbreak and the sorrow and, at such a young age, that probably saved us from being overwhelmed.

However, as we matured and our understanding of 9/11 developed, the feelings associated with the event lagged behind. We can clearly understand the event as a whole and see it unfold but I feel, sometimes, we leave emotion and feeling out. This has been our natural response because that is what we did as children to protect ourselves from it. And as a result we treat it more as a historical event than a personal one.

Coming to college and hearing Artie Van Why speak on the anniversary of 9/11 at last week’s Common Hour was one of the first times I could truly understand this event on all levels. Seeing him speak and seeing how this event affected him showed me the true emotional state everyone experienced on that day and the days that followed. It was through this speech that I was able relate to the event in a way I had not and could not before.

Van Why’s speech propelled me to experience feelings about 9/11 for the first time. This speech had a cumulative effect on the audience. As I looked around, I saw people attentively listening — some were crying while others were comforted by friends and family. Everyone there was trying to understand that day and the emotional aftermath it caused. It was as if they felt an obligation to do so, whether out of respect or for their own need to feel more connected to 9/11.

It was at that moment that I realized everyone has a story, whether they are from New York, California, India, or here in Pennsylvania. Everyone knew someone or knows someone who knew someone who was involved in 9/11. It is this that connects us all to that event and, in a way, brings us closer to one another. It is through other people that this generation will learn the other side of this event — the side that cannot be learned in any history book or movie but the side that shows the true emotions and feelings that were felt in the aftershock of this tragedy. The side that makes this event more than a moment in time.

Artie Van Why said, “Speaking at Franklin & Marshall made me feel that I did something special to honor that day. I was truly overwhelmed by the respect and support of the people who listened.”

This is one of the best ways we can honor that day, as well. We must tell our story because the people of tomorrow will be waiting and will want to listen. And this is the only way that this event will not only remain in a history book but also in our hearts and in our minds, forever.

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