I was in kindergarten on September 11th, 2001. Not two weeks after, I transferred schools to a school located on the edge of Brooklyn, right near the Brooklyn Battery tunnel. All my friends who went there saw the sky become consumed in dust, and, fifteen years later, remain traumatized by the sight of papers flying across the river. I did not see this. As a twin, I remember being upset that the towers I felt entitled to were no longer there for my parents to point out as we drove through Manhattan. I do not know when I began to understand the heavy significance of what happened on September 11th, but I also can’t remember a time where I did not understand what had happened.
New York City shines two vertical, blue lights in the air every September 11th right where the towers once stood to honor the victims and the heroes. While even New York doesn’t stop on September 11th, moments of silence are observed and the day is recognized. Growing up, we talked about the details of the day — both formally in school and informally among peers — and discussed where our parents were and what we remember and what we don’t.
New York and the Midwest are different for a lot of reasons. They move at different speeds, the food is different, the people are different. All of this was an adjustment during my first year here at Michigan, but it all felt very manageable. That is, until September 11th of my freshman year. Before I continue though, I’d like to clarify my purpose in writing this article. I am by no means claiming that people in the midwest ignore or fail to remember September 11th, and I am no means attempting to claim that my experience with September 11th is more important than anyone else’s, or that I am more entitled in speaking about my experience, I am just commenting on what I have noticed.
Freshman year, I overheard two of my hallmates questioning why there were flags on the Diag on September 11th. Sophomore year, my social calendar recommended I be at a frat party on September 11th. As an international studies major, I had anticipated that my lectures and discussion would relate the events of September 11th, 2001 to current events. I was surprised that no one in my social-justice minded classes brought up the date — which was glaringly obvious to me.
Junior year, I spent September 11th shepherding around a group of 75 freshman from one sorority house to another during the first day or recruitment.
My roommates and I make a concerted effort to recognize the day, whether by watching movies or telling stories or visiting the flags set up in the Diag. I am thankful that since my freshman year I have found friends who understand the day in the same capacity as I do, and who are willing to share where their parents were and how they realized, at such a young age, what had happened.
Still, I find myself frustrated that at a such a large, liberal, and forward-thinking school, filled with brilliant and compassionate students, fails to sufficiently recognize the day and show compassion to the students who lost a loved one on September 11th.
Photo courtsey of Laura Hollander.