Ten years after the September 11th attacks, the world reflects on the significant changes it has undergone. While Hiram faculty members recall the attacks as a distinct event that changed history, most of the students who attend Hiram today were between the ages of seven and eleven on that fateful day. Most of their memories are those of confusion, and they have little recollection of the world as it was before thoughts of terrorism infiltrated every aspect of our society.
Zach Mertens ’14, a current Math major, was a 4th grader at St. Mark Elementary School in Cleveland when the towers were hit. The principal called everyone into the chapel for an announcement not long after class began.
“They started with this speech about how not all people are good people,” he says. “And the principal told us that some really bad people had attacked our country. They were really vague about everything. Students had no idea what was going on.”
In Evanston, Illinois, school hadn’t started yet. They were a time zone behind the devastating news. Noah Sittler ’14, a Theater major, was still asleep when his mother woke him up. As their family watched the news footage, trying to determine what had happened, the second plane hit.
“Right then, I was pretty shocked and sad,” Sittler says. “But I wasn’t horrified. I didn’t understand that it was a terrorist attack, and even if someone had told me, I wouldn’t have had any way of knowing what that really meant.”
In Vienna, Austria, future Hiram Theater major Steven Barton ’14 found out about the attacks when he returned home from school. He remembers his mother being very shocked, but he didn’t think that an attack so far away would make an impact on his life.
“I kind of understood what was going on, but I didn’t think it was that much of a big deal. I didn’t think it would affect me,” he said. “Looking back, it did.”
Barton went to school with the children of U.S. Embassy and United Nations staff. Teachers tried their best to explain to a class of 9-year-olds what had happened, while still maintaining a normal schedule.
“We had in-class discussions about terrorism and such. Embassy children were definitely affected, but playtime still went on,” he said.
He recalls that, overseas, the U.S. Embassy removed their diplomatic license plates from cars, for fear that they might make their employees “too much of a target.”
Amy Morton ’13, an Integrated Language Arts Major, found out about the attacks as she was waiting outside her elementary school in Minnesota. Students knew that buildings had been attacked, but the details were hazy.
“I was so oblivious,” Morton admits. “I honestly didn’t grasp the concept of such a huge wipeout, just losing thousands of lives. It seemed like it was going on so far away from me, almost in another dimension.”
The youth of today have virtually no recollection of the world before September 11th, 2001; their memories of world events are colored by confusion, followed quickly by war. Few of them were given the chance to develop the illusion that the world is a safe and happy place, and their way of life has always consisted of strict airport security and wire tapping. Yet members of this new generation are striving to make the world a better place, through art and medicine and education. They are, whether consciously or not, creating a new America from the ashes.