CHICAGO, September 11, 2912 (Reprint from 9/11/11) — We all remember where we were when we first saw the smoking towers. Or do we?
Every 365 days or so, Earth makes its way around the sun and we all get a little older. There’s a new crop of AARP members, a new crop of first graders, a new crop of college kids, and a new crop of voters.
This year’s new voters were eight years old on September 11, 2001. Third grade had barely begun, when their world went into shock.
Curious to know what they remembered, how they felt, what they think now, a Facebook request was sent out. Over 740 people, mostly 16-20 year olds, were simply asked, what do you remember about 9/11? These young people are spread all over the country, across economic lines, and from diverse ethnicities. Most lived far from the attacks, although some had relatives in those cities. Some may have even been there.
Did they remember seeing the coverage on TV? Did they remember the shocked look on Dad’s face when he answered the phone? Did they remember making construction-paper flags and their teachers trying to explain to them why so many people were scared and upset? Did they remember asking Mom a couple of days later “Why are they still showing this on TV? Is it real or something?” Now that they are older, do they understand how significantly the attacks changed their young lives and the world around them?
Thus the Facebook request was sent. What do you remember about 9/11? And a curious thing happened.
Not one of them responded. 740 young people ignored the request.
This does not mean that they don’t remember or that they don’t care. High school and college have just started. There’s a lot in their world right now that requires their attention – class schedules, new teachers, old friends and Homecoming.
9/11 is there, too. It’s in the news and on the talk shows and maybe mentioned in class. Yes, they remember. Yes, it was all very sad. But for many of them, especially those outside of New York and Washington DC, it’s a second-tier concern.
Granted, they are young. Their lives should be full of Friday nights and Homecomings and even homework.
But they are also voters or soon-to-be voters. They must not forget the horror of that day. They must be reminded of what caused it, both in the air and in the marbled buildings of Washington, DC. They must be aware that without proper diligence, their diligence now that they are adults, it could all happen again.
We can never fully honor those who died. We can never fully honor those who risked their own lives, whether they were airplane passengers or first responders, trying to save others.
But we must try. We must erect memorials and remember each anniversary as long and as loudly as we can. Those of us who remember must remind the next generations of what can happen when freedom is taken for granted. We must teach them that freedom needs to be protected. It is not free, and it is not easy.
Those of us who were too young to remember where we were must realize that ensuring our own freedom is now our responsibility, too. Young people must be aware; they must be active; they must be willing to sacrifice. They must understand that Homecoming is more than a football game and a dance. It is a privilege earned by the sacrifices of thousands of people who fight for our freedom.
And many of them won’t be coming home at all.
Honor them. Remember them. And teach the next generation to understand why we do. Our future freedom is their responsibility.
To contact Julia Goralka, see above. Her work appears in End of the Day in the Communities at the Washington Times Online.
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