College students remember 9/11: Cynical, personal loss, bravery
The collegiate staff of The Venture reflect on their experiences during 9/11. Though many were still too young to comprehend the full scope of the tragedy at the time, the experience has had a profound effect on their lives. Students are from the University of Houston unless otherwise noted.
I was ten years old on September 11, 2001.
I was sitting in my fifth grade class when I noticed several students were being called to the front office. I remember this was about the time of the first major West Nile scare, and I thought that was why so many parents were coming to pick their kids up. Nobody would tell us what was going on, so naturally I started freaking out and thinking we were all going to die from West Nile virus.
When I got home, I asked my mom about it. I should have known something was wrong when I saw my father home from work early and my older brother out of school an hour before usual. My mom sat me and my little brother down on the couch next to her and proceeded to tell us about what happened in New York and Washington D.C.
By the end of it, I was crying out of fear and sorrow, while both of my brothers were equally shaken. Only then did my father turn on the television so we could see it for ourselves.
Two towers demolished, a gaping hole in the Pentagon building that the movies taught us was invincible, and a crashed plane in Pennsylvania that showed testament to the one snag in this destructive spree.
On that day, a little voice inside told me that I would be living through a pivotal part of world history. My suspicions were confirmed when I found myself vacationing with my family in Washington D.C. on March 20, 2003, the day Bush declared war on Iraq.
I can’t say for sure how 9/11 affected me, since so much has happened to me in ten years: my first crush, puberty, my first kiss, graduation, college. Maybe it has contributed to my ability to be cynical and apathetic at will; maybe it has made me question the things I hear every day; and maybe it has forced me to grow up a bit faster than I would have liked. I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t imagine my life any differently.
It was two days after my 17th birthday and my best friend’s 16th birthday. I rushed to my marketing class after oversleeping; I was late again this morning.
When i arrived, my teacher was in the student-operated school store, reviewing merchandise that had arrived for the day. My fellow classmates were chatting among themselves. I found my seat and laid my head down to sleep. Only seconds later, my teacher rushed into the room yelling, “We’ve been hit! Hurry, turn on the TV! We have just been attacked at the World Trade Center!” she said.
Sure enough, the TV was turned on just as the second plane crashed into the building. I was chilled awake. Mixed emotions filled the room. Some were shocked and hysterical, others sat quietly with visible tears flowing down their cheeks. The rest of the day was a haze. When i finally had the opportunity to acknowledge my friend’s special day, the warm wishes seemed inappropriate, out of place. How tarnished 9/11 had become.
September 2001 was emotionally draining. I suffered from the same loss that held the nation in a tight-lock, but only days after, a personal tragedy hit home – my father died. All the events that followed 9/11 put me in a state of wonder and self-evaluation. The nation felt unstable; I longed for stability. I decided I needed to educate myself with other cultures, travel the world. I wanted to understand, why us?
My bubble of innocence had burst.
On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I was barely beginning the third grade, making my way to class just like any other ordinary day as an 8 year old. Right before class started though, my teacher must have spoken with a fellow instructor because she timidly walked across the classroom and slowly turned the dial of the radio.
My fellow classmates and I were ecstatic as we believed our teacher was going to let us listen to music on 104.1 KRBE. Unfortunately, my teacher tuned into 740 KTRH. Although we were children, we still grasped the concept that news is usually bad news.
When our teacher told us that the World Trade Center had been knocked down by terrorists in planes, most of us only understood that the two most important buildings in our country had been knocked down. Soon afterward, parents began panicking and picking up their children in swarms.
My mother herself succumbed to this fear, and took me home. Seeing images of people throwing themselves off the top of the towers, replays of the plane impacts, the destruction beneath the towers in New York and the Pentagon in flames, left a lasting mark in my mind as a child. Seeing how brave the firefighters and policemen worked to rescue in the midst of disaster ignited a pride in me for my country who never gave in even in times of attack.
Ten years ago on this day I was getting ready for school. I was turning 13, and the last thing I wanted to do on my birthday was go to school.
I was happy I was turning 13 until I got to school. Bianca, my friend, announced to the class later in the morning that the Twin Towers and the Pentagon had been attacked.
I couldn’t believe it, was this a sick joke? I knew what was going on, but I also remember not understanding the WHY of the events. However, the more I watched the news, the easier it became for me to understand that the U.S had been attacked due to hate, ignorance and dangerous beliefs.
This was the first time I realized hate existed in the world. The tragedy changed my life in that I realized life could change in a second. I had found appreciation for life.
The events also taught me not to take the liberties my country offers me for granted. I feel so blessed to be in a country where I can educate myself and have the freedom to voice my opinion.
Although the attacks where horrific and traumatic, I did learn something about my country on 9/11, and that is that we stand united in times of tragedy. Out of sadness and despair, I saw how a whole country came together to help and honor the fallen. 9/11 will always be like a scar to me. Yes, it has healed, and it doesn’t hurt as much anymore, but it will always be there to remind me of how lucky and blessed I am.