Remembering 9/11

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By Zac Oakes


Tuesday marked 17 years since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, a day that changed our country forever and a date that will forever be marked in infamy. 

Ask a group of people and it is likely that 99 percent or more can recall where they were and what they were doing when they found out what happened that morning.

For me, I was 6 years old, in kindergarten at Salem Elementary in Russell Springs. We were about to march down the hallway to the library for our scheduled library time. If I recall correctly, we had started a movie in the library on the Friday or Monday before that Tuesday morning, and we were planning to finish it that morning. 

But before we even made our trip to the library, you could tell something was off. Something was wrong, but as kindergarten students in 2001, we had no clue what was going on outside the walls of our school.

All we cared about was talking to our friends, watching a movie in the library, and what games we were going to play at recess that morning and that afternoon. 

We had no clue our nation was under attack on that sunny morning. Our lives would be forever changed by the events of Sept. 11, and we had no idea. 

I remember walking down the hallway to the library, and even at such a young age, we could sense that something was off with teachers and staff at our school, but nobody was saying anything. It was understandable. How do you explain that to children between 5 and 7 years old? 

We walked into the library and the large television in there had news coverage from New York. That’s my first memory of seeing the towers with smoke and fire billowing from all around. 

From there, my memory gets a little hazy, but I remember the deep sadness that came over everyone. I remember people crying, praying, calling people. Even 17 years later, those memories still stick. 

In 2013, I had the chance to go to New York on our senior trip. We visited Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 Memorial. It wasn’t completed when we visited, but the twin reflecting pools had been completed and were open to the public. 

If you have never visited them before, I highly encourage you to do so if the chance presents itself. 

The names of all those who lost their lives that day, as well as victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, are inscribed into bronze panels that edge the reflecting pools. Row by row, name after name, you can read the names of each of the victims of this horrific tragedy. Reading many of those names myself put that day into a new perspective for me, and it is something that I will not forget. 

Those of you who are older than I am certainly know how much life changed from pre 9/11 to post 9/11. The way we travel, the way we view terrorism, our foreign relations… all have changed since that day and have now become a way of life. For those my age and younger, we have limited, if any, memories of pre 9/11 America. Everything that changed has always been the norm for us. 

Sept. 11, 2001, reminded us how fleeting life is and how everything can change in minutes, or even seconds. We must not forget that horrible, dark day. Out of the darkness though, we often see the light. 

On that day, we saw the best of America. 

We saw hundreds upon hundreds of first responders ignore the clear and present danger by running into buildings that were minutes from collapsing to try to evacuate others. 

We saw people of all races, nationalities, religious backgrounds, and socio-economic statuses come together in unity. 

People put their differences aside for a while and loved one another, prayed with one another, and looked out for one another. 

As we look back on Sept. 11, may we never forget the freedoms that we enjoy, the foundations of our nation’s democracy, and the importance of loving and respecting one another. May we never forget that day and those that lost their lives, and those that continue to bear their scars today.