For many of the students at John Brown University, 9/11 is a distant memory. Many students were too young to see the implications of the attacks, or even to fully understand what was happening at all, but for adult citizens of the United States, the attacks were terrifying.
While there had been attacks on U.S. soil before, the 9/11 attacks were far larger in both cost and loss of life. The attacks claimed the lives of almost 3,000 people and injured over 6,000 more. The magnitude of such an attack carried out by an extremist terrorist group on U.S. soil was unprecedented and led to immediate military action by the United States.
Cole Mowrer, acting chair of the College Republicans, called it an important event, one that was necessary in remembering the sacrifice of the lost.
“It made a big impact on our generation. We don’t want to forget what happened to us, or what happened to those people, but we also don’t want to forget the sacrifice that our police officers, firemen or EMS all made,” Mowrer said.
Now, sixteen years later, the facts of the attack have become more a distant point of history. Those born after 9/11 have no reference for what the attacks were or what they meant to America at the time. Everything has come to them after the attacks. Many live only in a world that came after the war in Iraq, and the controversies that followed them. They have no frame of reference for the terror that shook the U.S. and much of the world. They have been told to never forget, but they have nothing to remember. Many do not remember the lives lost in the attack, or the sacrifice of the police, firefighters and paramedics. Many do not remember a U.S. before 9/11.
It is for this reason that students of JBU, specifically the College Republicans, decorated the quad with small U.S. flags, one for every life lost in the attack.
“It’s important, especially in such a politically charged time, when first responders aren’t looked upon in the best light, to remember the sacrifice they make for us on a daily basis.”
Humberto Smith, a member of the College Republicans, and native of Chinandega, Nicaragua, said the virtues of the actions exhibited by those responders of the 9/11 attacks transcend cultural boundaries, becoming something altogether human. “I just love the fact that, when trouble comes here, just how quickly people respond, and how quickly everyone is willing to help, and say ‘Okay, I’m here to help. I don’t care who’s in that building, I just want to get them out as safe as I can.’ I think that’s really to be honored.”
The effects of the attacks are still felt today. After these attacks, security became much tighter across the country. People trusted each other less, and many immigrants caught the brunt of the United States’ fear. While the attacks did not begin the debate on immigration law and reform, they certainly exacerbated conflict that was already there.
The source of the attack, however, finds its root in a conflict still being waged in the Middle East today. “Terrorism is a real thing. It’s something that we can’t just forget about. Sometimes we seem safe here because the main conflict is in the Middle East. You know, there’s bombings every day, people are dying every day.” Mowrer said.“It doesn’t really happen here, so it’s easy to forget there’s still a war on terror going on, there’s still fighting every day, so it’s not just something that’s done.”
In the end, Mowrer said that it is important to remember those who gave of themselves in the attacks, and of the unity it brought to the U.S., a unity that has been lost in the recent political landscape. “In times of crisis, we set our differences aside and band together, mourning the loss of life and reminding ourselves that we need each other.”
SAMUEL CROSS-MEREDITH – Editor