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9/11 deserves more awareness on campus

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

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

Austin Yattoni

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.

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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  • Marxist, Maoist, and so on

    How about we remember not only the victims of 9-11-2001 but also the
    hundreds-of-thousands of civilians who were murdered under
    not-so-different circumstances in Afghanistan and Iraq as a result of
    Bush’s imperialist response?

    Or, how about we remember the
    thousands of Chileans who were killed as a result of a US-backed coup
    that murdered the democratically-elected president of the country and
    installed a dictator (Pinochet) on 9-11-1973?

    Your writing strong implies that countries are only the victims of terror, but the reality is that state terror has taken far more lives than terror against states. I encourage you to look critically into America’s history in Vietnam, Korea, Japan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, the Philippines, Mexico, Panama, Honduras, and others. Or, look at the French in Vietnam, the British in India, the USSR in Czechoslovakia, the Belgians in the Congo, Israel in Palestine. The world is a
    complex place, and it’s important to remember not only crimes against
    the powerful but, at least equally important, the powerful’s crimes.

    • Illinois Alum

      I agree that not enough attention is paid to other tragedies (including those caused by our own country). But I don’t think it has to be either/or. It’s okay to encourage remembering 9/11 and also remembering those other events.

    • SVV

      Are you saying ALL lives matter? You know, Black Lives Matter considers such expressions racist, bigoted, and offensive.

      • Illinois Alum

        Just to chime in, the biggest problem of BLM is a failure of messaging/marketing. The point isn’t that ONLY Black Lives Matter. It’s to remind society that Black Lives Matter TOO, and that those at the top of society tend not to pay as much attention to the deaths and poor treatment of those who are marginalized in society (often, but not exclusively, non-white people). And to refuse to accept that treatment as a normal fact of life.

        • SVV

          No. In the early days of BLM, when the president of Smith College wanted to show her support for BLM and said “All lives matter”, she was severely attacked by BLM for being racist and bigoted.

          So I am just applying the same medicine here. “9/11 victim lives matter”, and if you mention anything else, as someone did, you are a bigot and a racist hatemonger.

          • Marxist, Maoist, and so on

            Friend, these are two different things. BLM and their opponents have not invaded one another based on selective memorializing. I agree with Illinois Alum that BLM’s problem is one of marketing.

    • Man with Axe

      You left out the millions of people killed by communist insurgencies and invasions and revolutions and mass starvations. Or don’t you consider those killings “murder” because they were not committed by your own country?

      • Marxist, Maoist, and so on

        I did mention the USSR in Czechoslovakia (the USSR means “the Soviet Union”). For the millions dying of starvation, I assume you mean Maoist China. That’s not imperialism; it’s a lack of communication and empathy. Indeed, it’s important to also condemn the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan, China’s invasion of Vietnam, and other items. As for the “millions of people killed by communist insurgencies,” could you name me a single country where this has happened? Likewise with invasions. Unless you have a problem with Russians killing Nazis, I’m not sure how you reach the million number.

        • Man with Axe

          Thanks for the pedantry. For your information, USSR stands for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. “Soviet Union” is a nickname. I give you one point out of 100 for mentioning the USSR in Czechoslovakia. That’s like mentioning that Hitler wiped out the village of Lidice. It’s terrible, but the least of his sins.

          About 8 million people died during Lenin’s insurgency and civil war. An estimated 6 to 7 million Ukrainians died in Stalin’s forced famine called the Holodomor. Another 10 to 20 million perished in his forced labor camps during his purges (read Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. You can’t read it and still believe what you believe.) Mao’s insurgency led to about 2.5 million deaths. His cultural revolution killed about 45 million. Castro executed 5,000 upon taking power. Who knows how many he has killed since. The estimates go into the hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed during the North Korean invasion of South Korea, including the mass executions of every educated person in South Korean territory held by the North during the conflict. Anywhere from 11,000 to 35,000 people were killed by the Shining Path insurgency in Peru. Roughly 11,000 civilians were killed during a communist insurgency in the Philippines from 1969-2000.

          There’s more if you are interested.

          Let’s not try to put the Khmer Rouge genocide on the US. That’s neither here nor there. The bloody genocide is pure communism. You see some version of it in every communist country. The only question is the amount of killing. In China, in Korea, in Cambodia, you see the murder of dissidents and intellectuals. It’s part of the communist playbook.

          As for paying more attention to US crimes more so than other nations, sure. What crimes has the US committed that come anywhere near the millions of deaths and people sent to slave labor camps that communism has created everywhere it has been allowed to fester?

          • Marxist, Maoist, and so on

            Thank you for responding to my post about imperialism by citing some of the domestic horrors of some former communist regimes.

          • Man with Axe

            You asked me this question: “As for the “millions of people killed by communist insurgencies,” could you name me a single country where this has happened?” I named them.

            Imperialism is an amusing notion. It is what everyone does except communist countries, i.e., the ones who made all of eastern Europe part of their empire, who conquered Tibet, who invaded South Vietnam, who invaded South Korea, who crushed the Hungarian revolt, who crushed the Prague spring, who made East Germany into a prison, and who invaded Ukraine and Georgia. Are these not examples of imperialism because they were not carried out by western nations?

            So the list is a bit longer for the marxists than the Soviets in Afghanistan or Czechoslovakia.

          • Man with Axe

            I want to add a comment about something you said earlier: “For the millions dying of starvation, I assume you mean Maoist China. That’s not imperialism; it’s a lack of communication and empathy.”

            What it is is a failure of ideology. It’s simply wrong to think that anyone is smart enough or has the information necessary to radically change an economy of many hundreds of millions of people, and making the radical change is always going to end up with millions dead. It has happened in every case, but marxists don’t seem to learn that obvious truth. From the USSR to China to Cambodia the bodies were stacked a mile high. But the utopia was always right around the corner.

      • Marxist, Maoist, and so on

        Moreover, you and I have a responsibility to criticize our country more harshly than other countries, while keeping in mind America’s favorable aspects. That’s what responsible, engaged citizens do. We would be hypocrites if everyone paid principal attention to other people’s crimes.

  • Elan Karoll

    Beautiful. Well written, Hayley, as always. This is a very important and I wholeheartedly agree with you.

  • Illinois Alum

    I agree, such a tragic day in our history should not be forgotten. It’s interesting to hear that your Midwest friends didn’t seem to react the same as those back East. In my experience, people from the Midwest are among the most patriotic in the country, and in my experience social media of those people are flooded with patriotic support on 9/11 and other holidays. I’d be so bold as to say your observations are in the minority. But I suppose those directly affected by tragedies naturally react differently. People don’t react the same to a storm in the Gulf if they aren’t in that area. A shooting in California isn’t as impactfull to someone in Wisconsin. And it’s natural that current-day events will garner more attention than those in the past.

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable for people to react to tragedies in different ways. Some are emotional. Some try to move on. I’d argue that quietly reflecting and then going about your day as normal, laughing, studying, and enjoying your life is just as meaningful as having some big ceremony filled with pomp and circumstance. It’s natural that as time moves on, ceremonies will adapt. After all, isn’t the whole goal to heal?

    As for the transition from high school to college, it shouldn’t be that confusing. In highschool everything is structured. In college, people walk their own path. They don’t need to be reminded. There have been memorials on the quad, there continue to be various memorial ceremonies throughout the area, and there are plenty of opportunities to gather with others if you feel it necessary. I don’t think some sort of campus-wide rally is necessary.

    Perhaps you didn’t write the title of this article, but implying that there is a lack of ‘awareness’ regarding 9/11 is…interesting. Patriotism is constantly on display in this country. Our entire media and entertainment system is filled with it. The corporate world is filled with it and commercializes it, to the extent that I think it is exploitative, disingenuous and self-serving. Every sort of public event involves prominently displaying our flag and includes singing our national anthem, as if we forgot what country we lived in. I’m sure most other countries would scratch their heads at seeing a US flag and national anthem at a little league game. Non-American friends have said it’s almost cult-like.

    In short, I think more personal, genuine reflection is more solemn than public, often insincere, spectacle, but maybe that’s just me.

    All that aside, this was a very well-written article.