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Remembering (Or Not Remembering) 9/11

Firefighters walk towards one of the tower at the World Trade Center before it collapsed after a plane hit the building on September 11, 2001.
Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty Images
Firefighters walk towards one of the tower at the World Trade Center before it collapsed after a plane hit the building on September 11, 2001.

Where were you on 9/11? What were you doing?

Some can recall those details, and the days after, instantly. But members of Generation Z and younger millennials might have hazy memories of the terrorist attacks — if they remember them at all.

Members of the 1A Text Club shared their thoughts about 9/11, and how they’ve talked to others about it.

Some of these responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

“People my age are probably the last people that remember the day. I’m 23 and 9/11 happened when I was 5. It’s one of my earliest memories but all I can remember is after school activities being canceled and teachers crying. Anyone my age or younger has lived in a country at never-ending war over something we barely remember. I think it contributes a lot to how Late Millennials/Gen Z view America’s presence in war.”

“9/11 came up with my children, 7 and 9 years old, this summer. I had been listening to the radio and the fund for survivors and first responders was being discussed. My son asked me what they were talking about. I asked him if he knew what 911 was. He said yeah but he had only played it once. I asked what he meant. He said at school it’s a kind of tag game and whenever someone climbs to the top of the play structure they have to jump off and yell 911 before they get tagged. My heart caught in my throat and I was immediately sick to my stomach. I wanted to cry and scream “No! Who made up this game! This is NOT something you do.” And then I realized… they don’t know. They haven’t been taught about it in school and we haven’t discussed it with them. That changed right there and then and we had a long conversation about that day, where I was when it happened, how it has impacted us, and the whole world and how disrespectful their game was. They lost some innocence that day.”

“I was too young to remember them but I’m from Pakistan. I grew up surrounded by hate from classmates and students while I had no idea what they wanted to do with me. Since then life has changed for the better but it left an impact.”

“I was 5 and in kindergarten when 9/11 happened. My school didn’t start till noon so my mother kept me home along with my brothers who were 3 and 6 months at the time. She chose not to turn on the TV so I have no memory of that day as nothing out of the ordinary happened to me. I have strong memories of every [subsequent] 9/11 though. My mother would sign up the entire family to volunteer at events for first responders. She made sure that we understood the sacrifice that happened that day and always respected those who put their lives on the line for others on a daily basis such as firemen and paramedics.”

How do we talk about 9/11, 18 years after it happened? How has it shaped American foreign policy? How can we convey how it felt to those who weren’t alive, or don’t remember it at all?

We talk to journalist Garrett Graff about his new book, which pieces together memories of 9/11 based on emergency calls and cockpit recordings.

Produced by Morgan Givens.


Garrett M. Graff, Journalist; historian; author “The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11”; @vermontgmg

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