This year, for the first time since September 11, I woke up on September 11 unaware of the date and not thinking about the tragedy that occurred 8 years ago. It wasn’t until I was about half way through the day that I logged onto Facebook and saw status after status commenting on September 11 that the significance of the date struck me and I began to remember.
I remember where I was when I heard the news 8 years ago. I had just finished one of my ECE classes @ the U of I and was coming out of Everett. As I did, I walked past the teacher’s lounge and remember thinking that it was strange to see so many professors crammed in there. Then I went to wait for my bus and was stopped by one of my friends who informed me, “Our country is being attacked.” With no other news, I went back to my dorm room, turned on the TV and tearfully watched the events unfold.
Before long, I called my mom. On that day, the need to connect with those I loved was so incredibly strong.
For the rest of the morning, I sat in my dorm room, dazed, confused, and in tears.
Eventually, I left to go to one of my lab classes, where I learned that my partner’s dad had been at the Pentagon that day and they still had not heard from him. (Thankfully, he turned out to be fine.)
After that, I went to the Christian Campus House and watched the Towers collapse. That night, Doug & I joined with hundreds of other students on the quad for a candlelight vigil. The need to be together with other people that night was so strong.
In the days that followed, I remember feeling afraid – even though I was miles away from the terrorist attacks and largely unaffected by them. I also remember praying that President Bush and others would NOT respond too hastily and begin attacking people in order to seek revenge for what had happened to us. Eventually, I remember longing for normalcy to return. I remember being so relieved when baseball games and regular TV programming resumed because it felt like the first step toward healing.
The next year, on the first anniversary of 9-11, I remember being riveted to the TV, watching hours of the coverage of the Memorial Ceremonies, almost entranced by them.
Each year since then, though, I must admit that despite hearing people say “We must never forget”, remembering 9-11 has become much harder to do, something that seems to be the case for many in our country. For example, this year, remembering 9-11 was the 2nd story rather than the top one on Chicago’s nightly news. Apparently, Michelle Obama’s trip to the IOC to lobby for Chicago to get the 2016 Olympics is much more important than 9-11.
All this has left me pondering the question, how then should we remember 9-11? And how can we teach today’s youth to remember 9-11? Answering this question is becoming increasingly difficult because of the age of our youth. Today’s Jr. High Youth were only 4-6 years old when September 11 happened so unlike us, they don’t have the vivid recollections of that day; They don’t personally understand the fear associated with that time. And despite the fact that we’re currently fighting wars on two fronts as a result of September 11, because the average family has had to sacrifice little for these wars, even that has little impact on our youth today.
While I don’t claim to have all of this figured out, here are a few of the things that I’m hoping to do this year in order to help the kids I work with understand the significance of September 11:
- I’m going to find ways to share my own memories of September 11 with my kids and give them the opportunity to talk about it as well, in whatever capacity they can.
- I’m going to find an opportunity to show them “Taking Chance,” a movie that Doug & I saw this weekend. This movie told the story of the journey home for a marine killed in action in Iraq. It was a fascinating, well-done, heart-wrenching tale of sacrifice that does little to glorify war and much to show the reality of war (while still respecting & honoring those who serve in the armed forces.)
- Every time our youth gather, I’m going to begin praying for those in the military on our church prayer list.
- I’m going to find a service project in which we can do something to support our troops.
- During one of our regular Tuesday night gatherings, we’re going to discuss war. I’m going to bring in one or two older veterans and give our youth the opportunity to hear their stories and ask them questions. Afterwords, we’re going to debate the idea of just war.
Through this, I hope to help my youth understand the significance of September 11, the reality of war, and the fact that their faith impacts their understanding and opinion of war.
That said, let me hear from you. Where were you on September 11? How do you think we should help today’s youth remember & understand the significance of September 11?