Eleven years on from the horror of the morning of September 11, 2001, it’s easy even for some of us at FIRE to forget that today’s college students by and large were children when four jet airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
I was in law school at the time and remember sitting in a lounge at the law school for hours waiting with what seemed like most of my classmates to give blood at a previously scheduled blood drive that suddenly took on a great deal more meaning. My colleague Will Creeley, then an undergraduate at New York University, was actually in lower Manhattan that morning, just blocks away from the first tower when it fell. He remembers it as vividly as one would expect from an eyewitness to that nightmarish scene. FIRE’s president, Greg Lukianoff, was on a plane to Philadelphia when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. On landing, he spent the morning attempting to track down his sister, who had worked in the Twin Towers until just a few months before. The terrorist attacks of that day touched the life of every American; none more so than the nearly 3,000 victims and their families.
Most students going through college today don’t have an adult recollection of the attacks. Today’s freshmen were born in 1994 and would only have been seven years old when the Towers fell, yet they will nonetheless memorialize the attacks on campuses across the country today. Hopefully, none will run into unconstitutional resistance to any of their memorial events, as some did at Northern Arizona University just last year. It is my hope that today’s college students and future generations who did not have families directly impacted by 9/11 will honor the victims of the attacks, the first responders, and the "average" citizens from across the country who flocked to Ground Zero to help-without ever having to experience the horror for themselves as adults.