Remembering and Teaching 9/11

I was nine years old when the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. All I can really remember of that day was being pulled out of school and then rushed home. My mother, I found out later, said she had been told that the attack was a hate crime against Jews and she wanted to make sure that we were okay. Two years before, the Jewish day care I attended had been attacked by a crazed gunman targeting Jews and my mother feared the worst.

I only remember seeing footage of the twin towers the next day at my day care and discussing it with other children my age. At nine years old I suppose I was too naive to understand the full extent of the events that had happened. All that had really registered in my mind was the hate crime aspect, the only aspect I can remember.

The attitudes people had after the 9/11 attack shifted entirely. Suddenly, anyone of Middle Eastern coloring was targeted as a terrorist even though they had nothing to do with the crime. Jews likewise were blamed, though less publicly, because Americans saw the terrorist attack as a sign that the United States needed to withdraw their support of Israel.

It was a tense time for people on both sides. The 9/11 attack was one of the first in history to be internationally viewed, and for the first time in my own lifetime the countries of the world banded together. It was an attack on the World Trade Center after all. The attack shocked and affected the world and everyone, no matter how far from the wreckage, became a united front against terrorism.

10 years later, the after effects of the attack are still felt. We still have troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq, though the “War” was supposedly won (a claim made by two presidents). Airports have become impossible to get through in less than two hours, and profiling has become a national issue. Those of Middle Eastern descent are still targeted as terrorists and Jews still live in fear of another attack.

For all the bad that remains, the most disappointing thing is that the feeling of unity in the years following 9/11 has all but vanished. After the attacks, the citizens of the United States rallied together as an unbeatable front. Now, two wars and a failing economy later, any pride Americans felt for their government is considerably less.

10 years later, I feel like I know more about the attacks than I did at nine years old. I know who caused them. I know why it was supposedly done. I know the effects of them internationally. Unfortunately, there is an entire generation growing up knowing nothing at all about why these attacks happened and why they are important.

Many people are unsure now on how to teach about the 9/11 attacks. It has me wondering if historians were struggling this much after World War I and II with what to include in textbooks and biographies.

The facts, in my opinion, are only a small part of the story. The truly remarkable thing is the type of effect this attack had on the world and on families in the United States. The number of people who died is disheartening to say the least and their loss has not diminished ten years later. I spent 9/11 watching stories of heartbreak and rescue. All of the survivors talked about the selflessness that was shown as the towers collapsed. This is the history that should be taught, not simply the facts.

9/11 was a pivotal moment, not only for the United States but for the world. It changed the course of history forever and affected everything that happened internationally afterwards. To ignore it would be fruitless because 9/11 has touched everyone’s life in some way.

The attack on Sept. 11, 2001 taught me to never take anything for granted. I do not live in fear of another attack because I know that waiting for one has no point. We must fight for what we believe in and stand up against what we do not. America is a country of action and no attack will ever change that. 9/11 is the most important event of the 21st century thus far and must be taught to future generations and given the full importance it deserves.

Sara Naor is a second-year film and media studies major. She can be reached at snaor@uci.edu.