I remember last September in 2020 thinking to myself, I cannot believe that the 20 year anniversary of 9/11 is a year from now. Fast forward to 2021 and the 20 year anniversary since the series of terrorist attacks against the United States is now just days away. It has been weighing on my mind quite heavily since the start of September which is why it only comes natural for me to take the time to write about it. I am still in disbelief that this tragic event had happened then and now two decades ago. Backtracking to 20 years ago, I was only in high school–old enough to process what happened but too young to truly understand the severity of the event and its impact not only on those directly affected but the historical impact it had on the entire world. Little did I know then, what I do now is that I was experiencing a significant moment within modern day American history. Who knew that this was a day that forever would be acknowledged on its anniversary each and every year? Who knew that this was a day that many people will never forget where they were at the time that it happened?
I remember vividly being in a Psychology class and having the TV on to see live coverage of the World Trade Center going up in flames (one tower followed by the second one less than 20 minutes later) which initially appeared to happen quite mysteriously before later discovering the terrifying truth. What I don’t remember as clearly is my actual reaction to what I was seeing. Of course there were a range of mixed emotions and immediate feelings of shock, fear, sadness, and uncertainty. However, as I think about it today, I came to the revelation that although our perception may fundamentally stay the same, it often can change a great amount as we age and go through more life experiences. In this specific scenario, my perception from then to now is the same in that the way in which I felt about what had happened on 9/11 is very much how I feel about it now. However, what has changed is that I care more about it now than I did then–now that I’ve experienced 20 more years of life since it happened. I actually have taken the time to watch some TV documentaries and done my own research on the event where it is like experiencing it all over again with a new set of eyes. I know much more about it now and have seen even more footage as compared to when it was unfolding on television. When you are young, your mind is still developing and your perception is bound to change over time. I actually empathize on a higher level and imagine what it was like to be personally affected by the events of 9/11. Twenty years ago, despite always having the capacity to empathize, it was not at the same intensity because I was too young to really relate to what was going on or understand how traumatic it actually was.
As much as I am one to leave the past in the past, I recognize the importance of reflecting on the past as a way to measure our own self development and to shape the future. After 9/11 occurred, you better believe that airport security was increased in hopes of preventing anything as detrimental to ever happen again. At the time, I believe people began to value their life more and not take a single day for granted as the realization that tomorrow is never guaranteed was proven on September 11, 2001 when thousands of innocent lives were lost. Even though I was much too young to really acquire this takeaway at the time, it is something I think about twenty years later–to appreciate life and be thankful for each and every day.