The weather was almost too good to be true on that sunny Tuesday in Lower Manhattan, at the location of the World Trade Center, or the Twin Towers as they are better known. At 8:46 A.M. on September 11, 2001, the world was shocked as a hijacked Boeing 767 of United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the North Tower. At that point, many people thought that it was merely an accident. Only when a second plane slammed into the South Twin Tower, and another into the Pentagon, while yet another crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, did the United States know their mainland was under attack for the first time in nearly 200 years.
Three thousand innocent civilians, brave firefighters, and law enforcement officers lost their lives. To call it one of the worst terrorist attacks in modern history would be an under- statement. The 20th anniversary of 9/11 recently passed. To pay tribute to those who tragically lost their lives, I chose to reflect on these events from the perspective of one growing up in a post 9/11 New York, and comparing it with someone who lived through it, and was teaching on that dreadful day.
As a young child growing up in New York, I never quite understood the magnitude of 9/11. I would always wonder why people were so emotional when talking about it. I only started to grasp why when I read the book Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes. This book told the story of a young girl whose father had PTSD from working as a doorman in one of the twin towers on the day of 9/11. The father could never hold a stable job and had flashbacks very often, and the worst of them were always on the anniversaries of the attacks. She was terrified by her father, and still didn’t know anything about what happened on 9/11. Her mother then sat down with her and had her version of “the talk”. The girl was heartbroken to learn about what happened, and cried for days. While I was still too young to truly understand the magnitude of the events, the book gave me a sense of them.
More recently though, when I was watching a “60 Minutes” segment on 9/11 with my parents, I watched the heartbroken fire fighters and civilians talk about the heroics and bravery of loved ones, friends, colleagues, and others. My parents watched the television closely that night, not saying a word. My dad, a surgeon on the front lines of caring for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, had requested to change it before leaving, and my mom had become teary eyed. Watching this, I began to have a better sense of the events despite having not been alive at the time. I understand that it’s something that is so important in the modern history of our country and is still so recent and devastating that it's sad for those who were directly involved with it to deal with the subject.
We then spoke to Edgemont’s very own English teacher Mr. Weitzman so he could recount his experiences. He lived through that day and he was teaching in the Bronx at the time. He learned about the attacks during a free period that day. Although he wasn’t close enough to the buildings to be affected by the destruction, he could see the smoke from where he was at school.
He also said he had two friends in and around the Twin Towers on that day, but both were not forthcoming about what happened because of the mental damage it had done to each of them. In terms of how safe Americans felt before and after the attacks, there was a dramatic shift. US citizens had a common sense of security while living in the states, and Mr. Weitzman went as far as to say, “Airport security was a joke,” On one occasion, Mr. Weitzman took the last flight of the night and no one bothered to check his sizable carry-on bag; he simply boarded the plane. Airport security has since tightened up a lot. He also agrees with the fact that many stereotypes around Islamic people stemmed from 9/11.
9/11 is a date that will always be remembered for the terrible tragedy that occurred, the lives it changed, and the way it changed the world.