9/11: Never Forget

By: Amelia Rose Zimlich | Managing Editor | arz1722@jagmail.southalabama.edu

Photos By: Michael Dunn | Staff Photographer

“Where were you on 9/11?”

This is the question Americans have asked each other since late 2001. I’ll tell you where I was: I was in my highchair, eating breakfast. In the middle of our usual morning routine, my mom got a call from a friend, who told her to turn on the TV immediately. She switched on The Today Show and watched live as the second plane hit. I was eating cream of wheat, unaware that America had just become a war zone.

Most college students today were either not born yet or not old enough to remember firsthand the timeline of the events that resulted in the collapse of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon attack, the crash of United Flight 93 and the loss of nearly 3,000 people. Countless videos, documentaries, speeches and memorials convey the gravity of what happened, as do the stories of those who experienced it.

“I was in my first year teaching theatre at a state university in western Pennsylvania, about an hour from Shanksville, the site of the crash of United Flight 93,” said Dr. Lars Tatom, chair of the Department of Theater and Dance. “I had a student in one of my classes who was from Shanksville, and I will never forget the look on his face as the news announced that crash – he ran for his car, and we did not see him for a week. There was a sense of real shock, of being punched, of having the wind knocked out of you that lasted for several days. Everyone felt numb.”

This year, the University of South Alabama set up visible displays in remembrance of September 11. Rows of American flags have been planted in the grass of the Veterans Memorial Plaza outside the Student Center. The Communication department displayed replicas of front pages of newspapers showcasing the disaster across the walls of the first floor.

The effect of the bold black and white print, accompanied by images of the burning towers exploding, then billowing smoke, then falling, is unsettling, to say the least. It is also important. This year marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Twenty years, although significant, is still a part of recent history.

“I look back on the last two decades and realize how much of our everyday lives have changed because of the attack,” said Dr. Tatom. “The changes to things like flying commercially, ID requirements, huge increases in the government’s powers to observe everything, the resultant seemingly endless wars. It changed everything!” 

On 9/11, the best and worst of humanity were displayed simultaneously. We owe a great deal to those who showed resilience and gave our nation hope. So, we will remember the bravery and fortitude of true Americans, who are not defeated in the face of terror. We will emulate their courage, faith and decency. And we will never forget.