9/11: 20 years later


Leah Schroeder

Illustration representing the Twin Towers and the unity in the aftermath.

At 8:30 a.m. Sept. 11, the names of all individuals who lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11 will be read aloud by family members on Memorial Plaza. Later, six minutes of silence will be observed in order to acknowledge the time during which each Twin Tower was hit and ultimately fell. 

20 years ago, American society was forever changed when terrorists hijacked flights and crashed into the twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa. 

This tragic and formative day has since changed many facets of American life. From security changes at major airports, to a 20 year long war in Afghanistan, it can’t be denied that this fateful day will forever be a tragedy in American history. 

Two thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven people were killed that day. 2,977 family members never returned home. 2,977 lives ended earlier than they should have. To remember these lives, schools across Parkway facilitated half hour discussions establishing the facts of 9/11. News stations will air specials, complete with interviews from individuals who lost a family member, looking to humanize the day that already feels so far away. Speeches will be made reflecting on the tragedy. 

Even though many hold strong to the belief that these procedural tributes are an essential part of 9/11, the facts are plain: this isn’t enough

Following the devastating attacks, America preached unification in the wake of tragedy. We stood together and made promises: promises to uphold our values, promises to make sacrifices for the greater good and promises to return to the moral beliefs that our country was founded on. It should not take national tragedies for us to stand together. We cannot unite only after losing precious lives. 

Even then, our promises faltered. Thou our leaders preached morality and joining together, and saw a temporary uptick in support toward our Muslim peers, anti-Muslim sentiments increased exponentially following the attacks in the long term. Our leaders spoke of a utopian America, full of love, while citizens behind their back committed and continue to commit horrible acts of hate towards Muslims. Days after the seemingly empty promises were announced, they were already broken. 

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage our nation, with the current death toll at almost 670,000. The world of politics has never been more divided, as underscored by the Jan. 6 riots. Climate Change becomes even more pressing amid devastating floods and wildfires.  This isn’t even a nearly complete list of the problems facing our nation right now. How much tragedy will it take to get us to stand together again?

Rather than stand firm in our divisive beliefs and unwavering biases, we should look to join together as a country, in order to resolve the pressing issues our country is facing. A tragedy is not always a one time event. Our first instinct when facing nationwide issues should be to stand together and solve the problem as a unified people. Instead of getting caught up in party lines, we must seek bipartisanship and compromises to make real progress. We need to look first to unify, not to divide. 

It is unacceptable to break the promises we made with not only ourselves, but also the 2,977 individuals who lost their lives 20 years ago. We need to make real change; change that can be felt across the nation. To keep the promises we made, we need to seek unification, and dispel the division that has become all too common in our society. Presentations and ceremonies, while a good start to discussion and awareness, simply cannot not accomplish this alone.

In order to best honor the 2,977 lives lost on the fateful day 20 years ago, we must begin taking steps to unify as a country and uphold the promises that we made with them; promises to maintain a collective degree of morality. What tragedy are we waiting for?