Every year, I take time to reflect on 9/11/2001, because it was a day that had a profound impact on my life. It is a day that forever changed my generation, this country, and the world.
This year is the first year in five years that I get to be with my family on 9/11. Going to school in Georgia made 9/11 difficult in that I found that my experience was different than that of my classmates, which made it hard to find someone who could relate to having the same emotional connection to this day. Luckily, one of my best friends from college grew up in the DC area as well, and so I was fortunate to have someone that I could reflect with during my time at UGA.
During my senior year, I was fortunate to have an editorial published in the Red and Black, our University newspaper. I wrote it because in 2010, the conversation about the building (or not building) of a mosque near Ground Zero had clouded the newspaper’s coverage of 9/11. My editorial received several Letters to the Editor and even prompted a follow-up editorial.
In honor of the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and in hopes that it will prompt whoever reads it to drop the politics just for today and instead remember and reflect, I am reposting my editorial below.
Alan Jackson once asked “where were you when the world stopped turning”?
I remember Sept. 11, 2001 vividly -— it was one of those early fall days in Washington, D.C. that you look forward to all year.
It was a Tuesday, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
I was in my second week of seventh grade.
I remember being in Mrs. Folsom’s science class when she got an e-mail and decided to turn on the TV.
But most of all, I remember my classmate crumpling next to me as we watched a plane slam into the Pentagon over and over again.
I grew up 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C.
On that fateful morning, my mom was working as a contractor based out of the Pentagon. While she had a meeting elsewhere that Tuesday, many of my friends — including my classmate in Mrs. Folsom’s class — had parents working in the Pentagon and within the city.
As we watched that plane crash into the side of a familiar building, we were scared for our families and for ourselves.
That fear only intensified as cell phone calls failed to go through.
Recently, the politics of building a mosque near Ground Zero has clouded our national memory of Sept. 11.
Everyone has a story of where they were that Tuesday because it was a national tragedy. Whether you were near the violence like me or hours away, the uncertainty and fear felt was shared.
So was the unification and patriotism we all experienced after the attacks.
But when the discussion of Sept. 11 and the memory of what we all experienced turns into a political debate, our shared experiences begin to implode.
Focusing on whether or not to allow building of a mosque or debate the rights and wrongs of burning a holy text destroys our mutual feelings of patriotism.
Sept. 11 is a day which has forever changed my life — and yours.
It is a day which has sparked prejudice, launched a war and has completely changed the landscape of a major city.
Because of that Tuesday, you now have to arrive at the airport two hours before your domestic flight.
You can’t take liquids into many major stadiums.
And, an entire Cabinet department has been created.
Above all, we lost thousands of innocent Americans in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Victims were of every age, race and religion.
Terror does not discriminate.
Focusing on politics rather than on remembrance undermines the impact that this one day — really just two hours — has had on all of us as Americans.
This week, I encourage you to reflect on your own memories of Sept. 11.
Remember where you were, what you felt and how your life has been changed.
Most importantly, remember the thousands that we lost and their grieving families.
Let the politics wait until October.