How did September 11 change your life?

Photo By: Andrea Salazar
We will never know how it feels like to go through daily life without fear. Every time we ride an airplane we think, for just a moment, is this plane safe? Are we going to get hijacked? Then we tell ourselves we’re being ridiculous and continue on with our daily lives. That little speck of doubt is the difference of our generation with others. - Wendy Sara

With this fall marking the tenth anniversary of September 11th, 2001, our nation paused to reflect on the day’s attacks, and the changes that have ensued since. Surrounding the anniversary, the press featured the voices of politicians, firefighters, servicemen and women, and different professionals, but did not pay much attention to the thoughts and words of teens.

We wanted to hear from the generation that’s grown up in a primarily post-9/11 world. So we asked teens: How did September 11th change your life?

A number of themes ran through the dozens of essays we received, and students offered personal reflections on profound changes to America and individual daily life. Here is a sample of the changes students noted:

Increased security efforts
Feelings of fear and anxiety
Trouble understanding what the attacks meant
A first real experience with tragedy and large-scale loss
Hearing more news about terrorism, war, and conflicts abroad
A greater sense of unity and patriotism at home
Increased appreciation for our public servants and military forces

The following essays stood out primarily for their insight into the larger social and political implications of the attacks. Each reflects upon the unique position and responsibilities of the authors’ generation, and posts questions that we must continue to ask, in order to move forward.

All of the 108 submissions we received were a pleasure to read. We encourage you to take a look at the winning essays, to continue writing and sharing your voice, and to submit again for the next YourTurn contest!

First place

Wendy Sara
Faribault High School

Remember That Day?

I was six years old when the 9/11 tragedy occurred. I can only remember a few key points about that day. Like how we were in second grade and the teachers being upset but not wanting to scare us. The only part I saw in live footage was after the pentagon got hit but then the teacher turned off the television. I remember wanting to go home and talk to my parents about how weird the day had been. I think the moment it hit home how big the attack hit everyone was when I went home and found my mother crying. My mother is the strongest person I know and seeing her like that was what made me think what is going on?

The characteristic that the attack took from my generation was its innocence. We will never know how it feels like to go through daily life without fear. Every time we ride an airplane we think, for just a moment, is this plane safe? Are we going to get hijacked? Then we tell ourselves we’re being ridiculous and continue on with our daily lives. That little speck of doubt is the difference of our generation with others.

9/11 affected everyone. People older than us can see the difference in security at airports. We can’t. We have grown up in an America that is more cautious than ever. We can’t tell that difference. We grew up in an America where you know about at least one person that has gone to war. We hope that our troops are safe and there won’t be any more casualties. We have grown up in an America where we know the effects of war.

One of the lessons that we have learned is unity. We are a more united America than before. We might have our differences, but in a time of need, we’re there for each other. We don’t all have to think alike. We just need to care for one another. The terrorists wanted to destroy America. Up until this point, that hasn’t happened.

The greatest responsibility my generation has is passing on our history, our memories. In a couple of years, our kids will be the ones asking, where were you on September 11? How did it affect your life? How was your life before 9/11? What will I answer? I was six years old when the 9/11 tragedy occurred…

Second place

Bisharo Farah
Faribault High School

How September 11 affected me

September 11, 2001 was a very sad day. Many Americans lost their loved once. I was 5 years old when the attack happened. I lived in Ethiopia and didn’t know anything about the U.S.A, Osama Bin Laden, or terrorism. We did not have any technology at my house. I don’t even think anyone in my town had such things. I think maybe we had a phone that the whole neighborhood shared. Then in the year of 2005 my family moved to the USA. During the trip to the USA I noticed that everyone who was Muslim or anyone who was wearing a scarf was sitting on the left side and everyone else was sitting on the right side of the plane.

I thought about the reason for the segregation, but I just thought it was because they have never seen anyone Muslim before, because it was my first time seeing that many Americans too. The most Americans I had ever seen was one or two at most.

I saw a lot of people looking at my mother with unpleasant faces and whispering. I felt bad because I didn’t like anyone looking at my Mom that way and we couldn’t understand what they were saying about us.

September 11 really started to affect me when some Americans who had no idea who my mother was gave her a mean look. It was mostly Americans who just believed everything the media told them.

My family first moved to Dallas, Texas where I started attending school in fifth grade, and it was my first time ever attending school. It was on September 11, 2005 that I would hear of the attack for the first time in my life. Groups of student in my class were talking about terrorism, and then they said something about Islam. When I heard Islam I glanced over and they all gave me a mean look. At the time I knew a little English so when I got home that day I researched terrorism and Islam. That’s when I read about this sad tragedy.

In the next couple of day we talked about September 11 in my classroom. What I found interesting was that every time we talk about the attack, there was always mean comments about Islam as terrorism. I also noticed that my teacher was looking at me to see how I would react. I really thought that it was hypocritical and wrong to base an opinion on an entire people just because of the actions of a few.

I don’t like how the media portrays Islam. People should start doing their own research and stop believing everything the media says. The translation of the word Islam is peace. I think that every religion, society, and economy has bad/evil people who just like hurting people. I believe that America has done similar or even worse things than the September 11 attack, which perhaps the government doesn’t talk about. I also believe that it’s part of human nature to blame your failures and tragedies on someone or something else—which I also think is something government does a lot.

Third place

Emily Owens
Spectrum High School

It is funny the things you remember when you are young. I remember the time I was stuck in a tree, I remember playing make believe games in the backyard with my brothers, and I remember how I felt when I wasn’t big enough to build the playground with my dad. Those things are small, innocent memories that not only shaped me, but gave me a glimpse into my growth as a child.

However, it was a memory of one September morning that shaped not only my life, childhood, and future, but the future for America and my generation – forever. September 11, 2001 molded me in that it was my first real experience of tragedy and it showed me the power of unity among people.

At seven years of age, I did not know much about tragedy, not until the morning I sat on the couch, pondering about the look on my mother’s face. I watched from my television flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York, and I understood.

9/11 was my first real experience of tragedy, and I think for many in my generation, it showed us what really loss was. It meant that some children were not getting their daddies and mommies back. It meant that thousands of lives would be drastically changed forever. Tragedy opens our minds to broader perspectives that help us to see the world in a newer clearer way, and I did not, nor could not, understand this until the catastrophe of 9/11.

Although 9/11 had to teach me and many Americans, the hard lesson of tragedy and loss, it also showed us the power and the beauty of people coming together in unity. It is often said that death brings people together. This is a sad reality I have found to be true. Because of 9/11, America knows the importance of people coming together and supporting one another and our nation.

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