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Remember the 11th of September

It has been sixteen years since a catastrophic terrorist attack devastated New York City, and with it claiming thousands of innocent lives. 9/11 drastically altered both the lives of New Yorkers and the future of our nation. Every year Americans across the country observe a moment of silence or partake in prayer for the thousands of lives that were lost on that late summer day. While these respects are imperative to honor the loss of our fellow citizens, it is also vital to actively reflect on the events of September 11, 2001 in a more intimate manner. While we listen to the annual roll call of the lives lost, we should be cognizant about the effects that time has had on our memories and attachments to 9/11. We should reflect on how this day changed our country, New York, and our individual lives. 

Within a historical context, September 11, 2001 is a day that will forever exist in infamy, but not in isolation. Out of the ashes of 9/11 came our direct involvement in the Iraqi conflict. It led to the persecution and stereotyping of countless, innocent Muslim Americans who by virtue of their religion became the target of countless hate crimes in our post-9/11 America. For millions of high school students born after 2001, the incident exists as a powerful historical reminder of the realities of global terrorism in our post-Cold War society. 

When remembering 9/11, we should also consider the enormous impact the tragedy has had on our nation’s largest metropolitan area. New York City has long been a symbol of America, a hub of trade, life, and culture. Moreover, it also represents the home and workplace for millions of real Americans–people who were directly impacted when the World Trade Center collapsed. On that day, and in the many days following, New Yorkers mourned the losses of their fellow coworkers, family members, and friends. They continue to mourn today. 

In our post 9/11 world, there remains a distinct dichotomy between the generation that was sentient enough to experience the tragedy, and those without such a personal recollection of September 11, 2001. The class of 2018, in their kindergarten/first grade years in 2001, represent some of the last undergraduates at Duke with personal memories of 9/11. Many high schoolers growing up today only understand 9/11 based on what their parents remember and through their history classes. This generational gap inevitably leads to a very different emotional connection, and ultimately an emotional disconnect. This is apparent in the many memes and jokes about 9/11 conspiracy theories that continue to be reposted insensitively throughout the web. It is the responsibility of those who do remember to impress upon the next generation the importance of the date both on a personal and national level. 

It is important to consciously remember September 11, 2001 in a way that is not mundane and obligatory. Every day is an opportunity to explain to those who did not experience the tragedy that it did not only take thousands of lives and ignite a war in the Middle East, but it also affected individuals, a celebrated city, and the world. Though this generation will not have the same personal, emotional ties to the attack, it is important that they continue to reflect on its impact and magnitude, more than just once a year.

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