A lesson in history: Remembering 9/11


Photo by Grace Vance

Grace Vance

In remembrance of the 14th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, army recruiters Sgt. Joshua Rainwater and Sgt. Gary Combs gave a presentation in Gregory Irwin and Shawnna Matteson’s World History class. During the presentation, students reflected on 9/11 and learned about the impact of that day on the United States military and the rest of the world.
For Matteson, the attacks occurred during her third year of teaching. She remembers “standing in front of frightened teenagers all day” hearing questions, but having no answers.
“It was a lot of chaos and confusion. I heard about it on the way to work. The radio announcers were talking about some major event with an airplane crash in New York and I thought, ‘What a horrible incident’, and then I turned [the radio] off. You don’t expect what happened that day, you just don’t.”
To commemorate 9/11, Matteson and Irwin decided to hold the presentation in their class to show students the lasting impacts and significance the event has had on their lives.
“This was inspired partly because of the [9/11] anniversary. I don’t know how [students] particularly view [this day],” Matteson said. “I think it’s something that’s important for you guys to understand because it has shaped your entire lives. The country we were before and the country we are now is different because of that incident.”
After the event, many airport security changes have occurred. For example, new policies such as baggage checking, shoe removal at checkpoints to detect threats like bombs, and limiting liquids to below 3.4 ounces were implemented, according to an article from The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
As an army recruiter, Combs has talked with many millennials about joining the military. However, nothing unites people together better than healing from tragedy.
“We lost a lot of lives on that day. We were attacked on that day. We stood proud that day together. But a lot of things have happened since then,” Combs said. “Before 9/11, you could show up 30 minutes before a flight takes off, your family could go right to the gates with you and wave as you’re walking down to the airplane. Not happening now, right?”
During the 29 years that Combs has served in the army, he has experienced many changes, including the deployment rate.
“Before when I first started recruiting in 1999, I could safely say, ‘The chances of you being an army reservist, being in your local community and training and then being deployed, [were slim],’” Combs said. “We hadn’t had a deployment in ten years, it [wasn’t] very common. After 9/11, it’s a 50/50 chance. You just have to be ready.”
For Combs, the changes that have occurred in the U.S. is a symbol of strength and courage.
“We have learned a lot, our country has learned a lot, [and] we’ve grown. Things have changed, but we’re still the best country in the world. We’re still resilient. We learn from our mistakes and can overcome them. It doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger because we’re going to find a way to [get through] it.,” Combs said. “The way we’re going to get there in the future is through our strength. Our country’s strength is going to come from the young people.”
As a part of the millennial generation, sophomore Cari Redlinger believes her generation, her classmates, are the future of the country. By learning from past mistakes, she thinks that her generation can be a catalyst for positive change in the world.
“If we’re a good generation that is educated about everything that has happened, we could try to change [the direction things are going] and make the world better instead of worse,” Redlinger said.
Although she doesn’t plan on enlisting in the army, Redlinger still found the presentation very informative, saying that topics like basic training and how the army pays for college was new information to her. With recruiters like Combs and Rainwater giving presentations to schools, she believes more students will be willing to join the army because of increased awareness.
“I can see how people would join now considering they would know more about what they do and how they train, just [having] more information about it,” Redlinger said. “People might be more willing to go because I know they were talking about how as a junior you can start. With people who have been really impacted by 9/11, I can see how they would want to change [the world] and keep the country safe.”
As an example of that very situation, Rainwater found something positive out of a horrific situation. He can remember his experience on 9/11 as a ninth grader waiting at the bus stop wondering why there was no one to take him to school. He had yet to learn about the incidents occurring in New York City.
“Someone came over to the bus stop and said, ‘Hey, something really bad just happened. Go turn on your TV.’ I went to turn on the TV and it was all over the news, you couldn’t get a single station [without seeing it,]” Rainwater said. “That’s the reason why I wanted to join the army. I didn’t think it was right. I wanted to stand up for something I believed in and America is one of those things.”
For both Rainwater and Combs, working with others as a united team is one of the many positive aspects of being a part of the military.
“For the most part, we come out and we’re born as individuals. That’s how we treat and that’s how we act. But when you come onto our team, now you’ve got something bigger than yourself that’s important, right? You are one person on the team. You’re not the team, but you’re into something that’s bigger than yourself.”
By Grace Vance
photo by Grace Vance