What 9/11 Means To Our Generation

By Kara Apel, University of South Carolina alumna

9/11 was a turning point for many of us. It was a day that would live an infamy — a series of events that stopped us all in our tracks.
I was only a seventh grader at the time living in a suburban bubble and completely unaware of the world outside of America.
We were walking into the school cafeteria after just changing into our gym clothes. When we approached, we saw our gym teacher watching a TV that was inside a cupboard that we didn't even know existed. We saw the burning buildings. I didn't know what they were. Was this somewhere in Japan, maybe? This couldn't be close to us. As we slowly figured out the details, the horror of what happened sank in. We were immediately rushed to a prayer service where we saw our own teachers cry.
This was the day we realized the adults didn't have all the answers. A time when parents and teachers didn't have words to explain why this happened and could not promise tomorrow would come.
During recess we made up all sorts of theories about why Cincinnati would be hit and were scared beyond belief.
We had just finished reading "On the Beach," a novel about the aftermath of nuclear warfare. That's all I could think about in the following months. Could this happen? Would this happen?
Also on the reading list that year was "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl" along with intensive study on World War II and its aftermath. In a way, my seventh grade mind connected both the Holocaust and 9/11 as one and the same. Both were too confusing to understand and nobody had concrete answers for either. Everyone could answer the 'how,' 'when,' and 'where,' but not the WHY. Why would someone hate our country so much that they had to kill over 2,000 innocent people? Why would anyone think it would be OK to kill millions based on their ethnicities and religion in a genocide? Why would they do this? 
Unfortunately, these questions will never be answered and are questions each person will have to reckon with for the rest of our lifetimes.
9/11 was a day where part of our childhood died — evil was out there and ready to intake more victims. Even though I did not know anyone who died in the attacks or was personally affected, September 11th rocked me to the core and continues to do so today.
We have to remember what we learned that day — each day that we wake up is a gift and tomorrow is never guaranteed. But this does not mean we should live in fear. If we do, the terrorists who caused so much devastation will be getting exactly what they wanted.
We are Americans, united in the events that have shocked us and in the events that have yet to happen. We must continue to make our forefathers proud and show why democracy is so important to the world. If we don't, we are disrespecting the lives of those who died that Tuesday morning. It is our responsibility to take the lessons we learned and pass them on to future generations.

Head on over to 1,000 Dreams Fund to learn how to get funding for your dreams!