9/11 deserves more awareness on campus


Austin Yattoni

American flags line the sidewalks of the Main Quad in remembrance of 9/11 on Monday, September 11.

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

I didn’t have any idea what was happening, but I got to leave my pre-K classroom and spend the whole day playing in the school gymnasium. There weren’t a lot of other kids — both my brothers were there and a few other groups of siblings.  

We were the children who didn’t get picked up from our central New Jersey school on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

It would take me years to understand just what happened that day, but for many years I understood that day was different.

For the next 13 years, as I made my way through the school system in New Jersey, Sept. 11 continued to be a day marked as different.

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I learned a little more every year. I learned of our family friends who went into the World Trade Center and didn’t come out.

I learned that my brother asked my dad that morning why the plane that flew over our house every morning on the way to school was flying so low that day. I witnessed the pictures of President George W. Bush being notified of the attack. I learned of the phone calls made by loved ones, and the decisions that everyday Americans were forced to make miles away from the attacks.

Every year at school on 9/11, while classes would go on close to normal, there was at least one television on every floor that had the New York ceremony live. The day was somber overall — there was a collective mindset that this day deserved this mentality.

Coming to school in Illinois as a freshman, I woke up the morning of Sept. 11 expecting to have the same experience I had my entire life. I got dressed, threw my backpack over my shoulder and started walking across the Main Quad.  

The Quad was as it is any other day — happy laughs and friends excitedly catching up over recent gossip. I saw one group handing out little American flags, but that was it. There was no mention in any of my classes. My social media feeds had my friends from back east posting the routine yearly memorial posts, while my new friends in the Midwest went about their everyday lives.

Two years later, I still wake up with a mentality that Sept. 11 is different, but I am no longer as taken aback that the majority of people around me did not have the same experience as I did.

If Sept. 11 had happened in the age of social media, I wonder how the world would have reacted, and would react 16 years later. Maybe there would be more of a collective feel to mark this day as different from all others because more people would have watched it unfold in the digital realm.

Society tells us we are more connected thanks to social media. We are able to feel the joy and pain that people around the world go through.  

And yet, somehow it feels like we are even more divided with each passing day.

In the last few years, we have seen every corner of the world shaken by acts of terror. We have seen communities come together in the aftermath of tragedies and call upon the rest of the global community to do the same.

We have seen our Facebook friends change their profile pictures to superimpose the flag of any country struck by violence and declare publicly that we are all that city, that name, that community.

Sept. 11 may not mean the same to you as it does to me, but it should continue to be marked with the solemnity it deserves. And further, it should serve as a reminder for the rest of this nation that we are all the same community, and when pain befalls one of us, it is our job to come together.

Hayley is a junior in ACES.

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