Sixteen years ago today, on the morning of September 11, 2001, four coordinated terror attacks carried out by al-Qaeda changed the world forever.
For the millennial generation, the subsequent War on Terror became the frightening backdrop for our childhoods; we grew up in the shadow of terror, in the aftermath of a tragedy that punctuated our lives. Around the world, in the years after 9/11, we unwillingly inherited a zeitgeist of fear, intolerance, anti-Muslim sentiment, strained international relations and fraught nationalism that continues to permeate Western culture today.
Nearly two decades later, we can look back to see that in the narrative of our lives exists a clear demarcation of who we were before 9/11 and who we became after. The staff at Boshemia took a moment to remember their experiences of 9/11. We have included the city they resided in on that day for understanding of the global impact.
Sarah Lawrence – Oxford, England, UK
I remember the day in fragments, really. I was just coming up to my eighth birthday. I remember coming home from school and feeling a strange hushed tension—it was in the house, in the streets, in people’s faces. I saw the image of a burning building on the television screen. I had never seen anything so terrible. I watched the smoke billow out chokingly and was frightened. Just days before, the fire brigade had done a talk at my school about fire safety and how to escape a fire. They told us to stay low, so that the smoke wouldn’t get in your lungs. They had told us that if it wasn’t too far down you should throw all of your duvets and soft things out of the window, then jump out and onto them. The building on the TV screen was much taller than any building I had ever seen. I wondered if those people would be able to jump, and if they had duvets in there which they could throw out.
That was the day I learned the word “terrorist”, and learned the true extent of mankind’s capability for evil. Since then, barely a week has gone by that I haven’t seen terror or evil on the news. I think that day probably marked the point at which my blissful childish ignorance was broken.
Kylie Krummel – Fishers, Indiana, USA
I was frustrated and angry on September 11, 2001—but not for the reasons you might think. I was in first grade, and because something had happened in New York, we weren’t allowed to go outside for recess. I didn’t know what it was at the time, just that it was getting in the way of my daily childhood routine.
What I do remember is the frustration and anger I felt a few years later, when I fully understood what had happened. As I watched helpless civilians leap from burning buildings and first responders desperately search for some way to help, I cried for the first time over the attacks. Over the years, I’ve cried because I finally understood how horrific and unfair the attacks were; I’ve cried because I sometimes still struggle to wrap my mind around those events; I’ve cried because thirteen years after the fact, I joined a military that was still at war; and I’ve cried that America continues to endure this grotesque reminder of the horrors the world can produce.
It’s been sixteen years, and I am still frustrated and angry.
Eve Jones – Plymouth, England, UK
I was only 3 when the September 11 terrorist attack occurred, but it is a testament to America and journalists at the time that I am so familiar with its emotional and political consequences. The courage of Firefighters and civilians alike during 9/11, and its aftermath, is something I aspire to; there was absolute selflessness for the sake of human life.
Elisha Pidcock – Martinsburg, West Virginia, USA
I was ten when the terror attacks on the twin towers happened. I remember there being an atmosphere of tension and malaise when I went to school that morning when I got to school: the teachers all seemed to be whispering in huddled groups, but none of us kids understood why. Then, our teacher explained that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I didn’t know what the World Trade Center was or why someone would fly a plane into it, unless it was an accident. Our teacher tried to turn on the tv to watch news coverage, but after it had been on for several minutes, another plane hit the towers and our teacher was told to turn it off to save us the trauma. After that, an assembly was called for the children who hadn’t already been scooped up by frightful parents. We were all marched outside to stand around the flag, flying at half mast, where some of our teachers spoke about the incident. We had a moment of silence during which I was overcome with empathic grief and was hit with a severe crying spell. Many of my classmates didn’t understand why I was so distraught. For me, this was my first realisation of the dark world which lay beyond my sheltered bubble. It weighed on me heavily as I realized that people could do such horrendous things for reasons which don’t make any sense, without a consideration for the families and friends which they left behind. I believe it cast an air of disillusionment about the world, the government, and the reasoning for war that hasn’t quite left me since.
Eileen Elizabeth – Midland, Virgini, USA
Lauren Amhrein – New York, New York, USA
The strangest part as every 9/11 comes and goes is how I realize that, for a couple years now at least, it’s been more than half of my life ago.
Barely 11 years old on 9/11, I’m not sure I knew much about the Twin Towers, although I remember a year later finding a photo from a disposable camera from my 4th grade field trip to Ellis Island with the two big towers in the background. I didn’t notice them at the time, but I found the photo ominous given their absence.
It was 8:30 am and I was in homeroom (I had just started middle school a couple days before). It was normal to have morning announcements (pledge of allegiance, weather, school news…) but the tone that morning was different. I can’t remember the exact words, but my principal shared the news that an act of terrorism had happened at the World Trade Center. Within a half hour, about half the students had emptied out as their parents came to take them home. Being so close to the city, many of my peers’ parents worked in or near the buildings. I remember going home with my mother and watching TV, hearing fighter jets fly over above. I remember her calling my father, who said he probably couldn’t come home that evening because he had to help all of the hospitals manage the influx of patients and relocate others. He told her how he saw the smoke and fire on the first tower but thought it was a restaurant fire until he turned on the news. I remember crying, being jumpy and scared – feeling like worse things were going to happen, like it wasn’t over. The leaves were starting to change color and if I glanced out the window quickly and saw something red or orange fall from a tree, I thought it was a bomb or fire.
I knew many acquaintances who had near misses (someone coming late to work and seeing the planes hit, someone running down 80 flights of stairs…) and unfortunately others (my neighbor three doors down, for example) who didn’t make it. In October, I visited Ground Zero with my family. The rubble was still smoking, and the “Missing” posters were up but yellowed. My memories are fuzzy, but going back to the memorial recently and looking down the deep holes that were left felt heavy.
It was an unthinkable thing to have happened, but unfortunately it no longer feels like the worst thing that could happen.