Remembering 9/11 at EMU

I am not entirely sure what I was doing nearly twelve years ago on Sept. 11, 2001. I know that at one point my teacher, an elderly and terrifying nun, picked up the ringing classroom phone and answered it. For some reason the blood drained from her face, making her the same color as the white trim of her black gown.

I know that for weeks or months afterwards, my school held periodic safety drills. These often involved huddling in the hallway while staff calmly moved about, sealing off all window and door gaps with duct tape.

I do not know if all Philadelphia schools did these drills, but mine did. In the end these drills proved unnecessary, but at the time it was the only thing that could be done to prepare. The only thought on every adult’s mind was, “If New York can get attacked, why not Philadelphia? If the World Trade Center can be obliterated, why not this school?”

Each year, when Sept. 11 comes around, this is what I think about. This is why I always approach 9/11 with solemn respect and reverence. This is why, growing up I, and everyone I knew, understood that 9/11 had impacted even those who were not in the towers. Even those who had absolutely no affiliation to the towers. Even those who spent that morning fleeing center city Philadelphia for fear of a following attack.

Now imagine my surprise when I go through my day at Eastern Mennonite University, on Sept. 11, 2013, and not a single person seems to realize what day it is. In no way was I offended, sad, or angry. I was simply surprised. It was so different from what I am used to. Until now, 9/11 has been marked by moments of silence, deep conversations in the middle of class, or by friends simply not showing up for the day.

In a way, the change made me both happy and concerned. Sept. 11 often used to be met with grief, anger, and hatred. This year, I saw it pass like an autumn breeze. Slightly chilling, and with such guile.

It shows me how much the American people have healed. We no longer limp due to the same wound. Now, we take it in stride. It shows a strength and ability to adapt worthy of pride. The day now passes unmarked by unjustified hatred towards a people who felt our pain in the same way we did. No longer do we linger on what has been lost; we now walk only forward. Even though I am happy to see these changes, I am also concerned. Moving on, forgiving ourselves, forgiving others, and letting the day pass without pain are all wonderful, beautiful things. What concerns me though is how many people seem to have simply forgotten about Sept. 11.

The few times that I brought to people’s attention what day it was, I could not believe how many seemed as if they did not even know the significance of the date until I pointed it out. To those of us who had no direct connection to the incident, I can see how it would be easy to forget. I can fully understand it, and in no way do I blame anyone for doing so. But what I do suggest, for the sake of those who lost their lives, those who lost loved ones, or those who be- came the center of unjust hatred and pain that day, please. . . do not forget.

Forgetting leaves no room for growth. It leaves no room for healing. We owe it to ourselves, our future generations, and to those among us who still go through 9/11 with memories of a brother, sister, father, mother, child, neighbor, ex-roommate, cousin twice removed, or enemy that is no longer with us on Earth. By forgetting, we no longer walk beside these people on equal ground. Adopt their point of view and remind yourself how it feels to see only the backs of those who do not understand your pain, and decide for yourself whether or not you can afford to forget.

-Kevin Treichel, News Editor


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