15 years later, remembering September 11

By Tess Halpern


This past Sunday marked the fifteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. These attacks, the largest to ever hit American soil, killed almost 3,000 innocent people, injured over 6,000 more, left innumerable people without loved ones and ultimately changed both our country and the world forever. 15 years later we are still experiencing the ramifications of this tragedy and are still reeling from its immediate aftermath.

I was only four years old in 2001 and, like most of my peers, I don’t truly remember a time before this devastating incident. For example, I have no memory of ever going into an airport and not feeling the presence of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) or not having to take off my shoes as part of a strange, tedious pre-flight security ritual that I was never able to quite understand until much later in life.

Additionally, due to the fact that the “war on terror” was declared less than a month after the attacks on Sept 11, my peers and I have never really experienced a time of peace. What began as a global battle against terrorist organizations and those that were accused of supporting them, with a focus on Al-Qaeda and similar groups, has grown and evolved over the years to include new terrorist organizations that largely organize on social media and online, something that could not have even been conceived of in 2001.

In fact, although President Barack Obama officially ended the war on terror in 2013, I’m sure many people would agree the fear of terrorist attacks has not ended with it, but has instead been reignited and, if anything, amplified in the past few years with the rise of the Islamic State group and the subsequent rise of terrorist attacks in Westernized nations.

My peers and I have grown up and matured in a time of serious mistrust of foreigners and the government, and that has definitely had a piece in shaping who we are as a generation. But, as a New Yorker, the events of Sept. 11 have also impacted me in a unique way.

I live in a town that is only a 45-minute train ride from Manhattan and I know people who were directly impacted by the attacks, both through witnessing them and even through losing a loved one. However, although the events and the aftermath of 9/11 were obviously heartbreaking, I have also been able to watch one of the most inspiring examples of resilience in history, as New York has recovered in the years since this tragedy: rebuilding, both literally and figuratively.

Today, the site of the World Trade Center is a place of remembrance but also the place where the Freedom Tower stands tall. Likewise, the date of Sept. 11 is more than just a day of remembrance, but is also a day when the nation comes together to give back and volunteer, turning a day of sadness into a day of hope.

Sept. 11 is a day when it is easy to feel hopeless and pessimistic about the state of the world, but it is important that we, in addition to taking time to remember, also take time to focus on positive changes that have been made and those that are sure to come.

Tess Halpern is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]