Meet the staff: Reflecting on 9/11

The+six+columns+in+Columbia+flying+the+flags+at+half+staff.+Photo+used+with+permission+from+Kirsten+Buchanan.

The six columns in Columbia flying the flags at half staff. Photo used with permission from Kirsten Buchanan.

The six columns in Columbia flying the flags at half staff. Photo used with permission from Kirsten Buchanan.

When the towers tumbled to the ground 11 years ago today, high school students now were only in first grade, kindergarten or not in school yet. Our six-year-old selves did not understand the consequences of the movie-like images flashing on television. Instead, we were sheltered by our innocence of the world. We weren’t old enough to understand, yet we were young enough to forget.
But the question arrives every year the calendar comes to this day, and every year we learn a little more, maybe remember a little more or realize again we cannot remember the day America changed.
Click here to listen to a podcast of what students and teachers remember.
We took a moment to ask ourselves on staff:
What do you remember about Sept. 11 2011?
“I remember getting out of Grant Elementary at 3:00 the day of. The teachers and staff hadn’t said anything at all, just left it up to all the parents. So there were a bunch of tearful parents picking up their kids and trying unsuccessfully to explain what was going on. My mom picked me up and told me in vague terms what was going on, and I remember being a little freaked out because my dad was  travelling on business at the time. What followed next is a blur of “serious talks” in the first grade classroom, scary news reports, and ridiculously over-the-top country songs.”
– Jake Alden, Editorals Editor
“Sept. 11th, 2001 was the day before my seventh birthday. I remember sitting on my mom’s bed, and watching the TV as the second plane hit the twin towers. My mom looked so upset and I couldn’t figure out why. My seven year old mind couldn’t wrap around the fact that even though I was really happy and excited about my birthday, that other people could be mourning and upset. I simply didn’t understand that a tragedy had just occurred.”
Laurel Critchfield, video 
“I am a part of the last generation that will have any memory of the day. September 11th, 2001. I was seven years old. It was the day the towers fell, and everyone in the nation stopped.
Missouri feels pretty far away from New York City, but it’s not. Suddenly, that day, the 979 mile distance seemed like nothing. My first grade teacher, skinny and greying, held tightly to the metal edge of the chalk board. Her eyes, usually so hard and focused, were misted over. She plastered a smile on her face and offered us paper towel tubes and markers to occupy our time.
One by one parents of the kids marched into our classroom, their hands shaking and their voices edged in worry. When my mom picked me up the trunk was full of canned goods she had purchased. She said the shelves in the grocery store were already almost empty, people fear they would be locked in their homes for protection.
Everyone had someone they were worried about.
My fourth-grade teacher clutched her rosary, her husband, as a First Responder, was sent as soon as the first cries for help were heard. My father’s colleague sat glued to the T.V., well aware that his sister was being burned inside the first building. My brother was completely unaware that his godmother worked near the buildings, and her daughters’ school was canceled until they could guarantee the students would be safe.
We will be the last who remember. When I got home, I watched the screen replay the crash over and over. I didn’t understand the significance. But suddenly, I was a child in a new world. A world of suspicion and a world of division.
More than the powerful memories of that day, I remember the days after. When the stores owned by Islamic owners in Columbia were questioned by the FBI. When girls wearing hijabs had to leave schools out of fear.
It wasn’t just the towers the left our country that day. So did a feeling of safety, an overall melting pot acceptance and the innocence of my entire generation. This day will always be in my memory. And I will do my best to not let my duty as a last rememberer to not be forgotten.”
Maria Kalaitzandonakes, The Rock Editor in Chief
“In September of 2001, I was due to turn seven years old.  Every day I would mark another day off my calendar until I finally reached my favorite day of the year.  On 9/11, I marked another day off my calendar and walked into my first grade boasting that there were exactly 16 days until my seventh birthday.  However, solemn faces and silent tears donned the faces of my teachers, and my countdown didn’t seem so important or relevant anymore.  The days following the 9/11 attacks I remember the World Trade Centers constantly being on T.V. and my parents constantly whispering, and crying.  At school, teachers were frequently reminding us to tell our parents that we love them.  I didn’t understand the detrimental effects of that tragic day.  I didn’t understand why something like this would ever happen. ”
 Jacqueline LeBlanc, Commentary Editor
“On September 11, 2001, I was living in Saudi Arabia, where I was born and raised. It was about 4 o’ clock  in the afternoon, and my mom was picking me up from dance. While at the studio, she heard some parents talking about something that had just happened in America, but didn’t know any details.
When we got home, my parents heard what was happening, and our family rushed over to our neighbor’s house to watch the news to see for sure. My mom told my sister and me to go off and play with our neighbors, and we wanted to anyway, for what troubles a grownup could never trouble a child.
After watching the news and discussion, our parents made us come in to the living room and watch playbacks on screen. I still remember looking at the T.V. and seeing planes flying into buildings, but not really thinking much of it. The parents described all that was going on. My mom explained that it was happening in America, in New York, but that had no real significance to me. Saudi Arabia was all I had ever really known. Saudi was home.
But it was that day that my parents knew it was time to leave Saudi Arabia and move to America. Of the 19 terrorists that hijacked the four planes of the terrorist attack, 15 were Saudi’s. Celebrations occurred throughout Saudi Arabia and around our town, though not all were cheering and it wasn’t joyous for everyone. In the weeks following, one of our favorite stores where we lived in downtown Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, blew up because of a suicide terror attack. After that, it was official that we had to leave.
My story is probably very different from the stories of many people I know. No one I knew died in the attacks, nor did we have any family living in New York, but 9/11 did change my life.
Living in Saudi Arabia was, without a doubt, the best years of my life. I still consider it a home because I was born and raised there, and I still have good friends there. But the results of it caused my family to move to the United States, and leave my innocent childhood behind. 9/11 will always be a part of history, and also a part of my story. ”
Julia Schaller, Staff Writer
“I don’t remember much about the day itself other then the television blasting images that were unthinkably awful to my first-grade mind.  I straight up didn’t understand, at all. My mom was disturbed, so I was by proxy, but the event struck me as far away, a far away problem for far away people that wouldn’t rock my little world. So I went to school, Grant Elementary, about a block and a half away from my house, walking as I did every day. The day was subdued, but I think it was the goal of the teachers to stay as normal as possible, because normalcy is the hardest and most important thing  to keep ahold of in chaos.
I think it worked — until the war started the only thing that really angered first grade me post 9/11 was that old men were taking up my Saturday cartoon time.”
Adam SchoelzThe Rock Editor in Chief
“Everything I remember about 9/11 I remember in “snapshots.” I vaguely remember teachers at school whispering in the halls, walking around with terrified looks on their faces. But as a little first grader, I don’t think I really picked up on the fact that something serious had happened. I remember stepping off the bus when I got home from school, walking in the front door, and hearing the blare of every TV in the house on, tuned to various news stations. My mom was in the kitchen crying just staring at the TV. Nobody really wanted to tell me what was going on, and I only picked up words and phrases from the news channel along with the pictures of smoking buildings. It wasn’t until my dad came home from work that night that I learned what had happened.”
Alyssa Sykuta, News Editor
“I remember driving home in my mom’s silver minivan, watching as silent tears streamed down her face, wondering why everyone had been so sad all day.  It wasn’t until that night, when my family gathered aound the television to watch the footage of the attack that I realized, to some extent, the reason for my kindergarten teacher’s furrowed brow and my dad’s stoic manner.  At the time, I thought of what happened as an accident – I was too young and naïve to realize that there actually were people in this world who would choose do something so vile and horrifying.”
Anna Wright, Commentary Editor
“I remember my principal walking into the room and telling us we wouldn’t be going outside for recess because ‘Something bad happened in New York.’ I know I was suddenly really scared because one of our close family friends had gone to New York City for a sabbatical, and all that was running through my head was, “I’m never going to see Daniel and Jesse again!” When I got home, the footage of the towers falling was playing on T.V., and I remember my mom dialing and dialing our friend’s number in New York and getting no reply. It was terrifying.”
Daphne Yu, Bearing News Editor in Chief
 
We want to know what you remember about that day. We invite you to comment and share your stories below.