A New Generation In The Shadow of 9/11

Those of us who teach were adults, or nearly adults when 9/11 happened.  Our students barely remember it.  In a few more years, the kids in our classroom will think of 9/11 the same way that I thought about the Kennedy Assassination or Pearl Harbor.

The generation of students we teach has lived most or nearly all of their lives in a post-9/11 world.  They see it as normal to take off your shoes at the airport.  They don’t know that there was a time before “Homeland Security.”  They live in the “new normal.”

But I still think about that awful day.  I was teaching my yearbook class and we were working on our theme for the year.  Someone came in late to class and said that a plane had hit a building in New York.  I turned on the TV, and we turned down the sound because it seemed like it was just a horrible accident in a far away city.  Terrible, news, but not really going to affect us in Houston.

I told the kids to get back to work.  And then I turned towards the TV, and it happened right before my eyes – the second plane hit the other tower.  That is when I knew in the pit of my stomach, like others around the country, this was no accident.

Within the hour, our campus was put in semi-lock down mode.  We were to stay in our classes for the rest of the day, no more passing periods.  The calls began to come to send students to the office.  Parents were coming in droves to pick up their students.

It is hard to believe it was so long ago, nearly ten years.  I used to talk about it with my students every year, but recently, the students have little or no memory of it.  They were too little when it happened.

I later learned that a friend of mine from college, an Air Force Captain at the time, was at the Pentagon.  He was very near the section that was hit by the plane.  He made it out and was able to lead others to safety and rescue some who were injured.  He was awarded a medal for his actions.  I was glad to hear he was safe and uninjured.

He later served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in Air Force special forces.

It is our responsibility to remember 9/11 and to ensure that we find a way to defend against that happening again.  But I think that as the years pass, the memory of that day is already fading.  We are again focused on other, seemingly more urgent problems.

I have a number of former students and friends serving in the various branches of the military.  I hope that they remain safe.  I also hope that we don’t forget those who have died, both on that terrible day and in the wars after.


  1. I was in 6th grade when Kennedy was assassinated; I was at work at the cottonseed company when the Challenger blew apart in the sky; and I was at school, doing early morning chores, not realizing what had happened on the east coast, until my fellow teacher came in and told me. Then I sat, for two nights and watched it over and over again, believing if I watched enough, it would change the outcome.

    • I remember being in journalism 1321 (newswriting & reporting) class when I heard about the Challenger disaster. We had been discussing confirming the source of news before believing it. The prof told us the shuttle had blown up and we all thought he was pulling our leg – it was part of the lesson. We raced to the student center after class and I couldn’t stop watching it for at least 30 min.

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