GLADWIN COUNTY – 18 years. 18 years to the day. It’s been 18 years since the day that the United States stopped and stared in horror at the awful footage that played in a 24-hour cycle across our television sets. It’s been 18 years since a generation grew up in a world not at war.
18 years on, how do we view the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001? Bring up the subject in the Record & Clarion newsroom and one by one each will share the story of where they were when the towers fell. Stories are felt and mourned, and the communal experience of that day is strengthened, until eventually the conversation wanes into silence, as we each sit lost in our own vivid memories.
It’s the same for each generation. Defining experiences of a time, the day the stock market fell, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, 9/11 – they each leave their cruelly-etched mark on a person, and the only way we know to deal with it is by showing that mark to others who share it.
Ask a person who does not feel the affects of 9/11. Those born after that date may not notice the direct affects that 9/11 has on their everyday lives. When they travel by air, they’ve always experienced heightened security. Hearing about military action in the middle east is part of everyday life for them, as they grew up during the United States’ longest military campaign in history. But what do they think about 9/11?
“It’s weird to think that it was only a couple years before we were born. If we had been born just a couple years earlier it would have been a big part of our lives,” Gladwin High School Junior Mikayla Petherbridge said.
Fellow GHS Junior Olivia Kleinhardt sees the day as when the United States became united. “I see it as drawing the country together,” Kleinhardt said. She specifically remembers learning about how trucks and firefighters came from all over the country to help in New York.
This was true in Gladwin County. In the days following 9/11 a relief truck filled with supplies was sent from Gladwin County, as well as so many small communities throughout the country.
While 9/11 may be fresh in the minds of those who lived through it, the younger generation only knows of the event from what they learned about in school, or from the stories they hear.
“I remember my parents talking about where they were at when it happened,” Petherbridge said. “We watched footage of it (in school). It was emotional seeing the buildings collapse and seeing some of the people jump.”
“I remember my teacher reading a story about it and crying. Even though she wasn’t there and she didn’t have family there, it was still emotional to her,” Kleinhardt said.
Which is the way it was, and still is, for any who witnessed the actions of that day. This is why we must continue to remember the day and moments when it felt like the world was on fire. Because when we remember the raw emotion of that time we are remembering what it felt like to be grateful to be alive. What it felt like to mourn those that were lost in a senseless act of violence. We remember what it felt like in the days after, when this country put aside its differences to come together and truly live up to its name as the United States.
By keeping 9/11 fresh in our memory we can pass along to those who were not yet alive the lessons from that time, and share our collective memory and history with them. Thus ensuring that the lives that were lost are not dishonored by being a forgotten footnote of history, but instead remembered as a timeless reminder of the earth-shattering impact of hatred and violence, and the soul-stirring compassion of the united human spirit.