EL PASO — I was 14 years old and a freshman in high school when terrorists hijacked two commercial passenger jet airliners crashing them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and another one into the Pentagon right outside Washington, D.C.
I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when that tragedy occurred almost 10 years ago.
My mom was dropping me off at school when the radio station we were listening to was suddenly interrupted by an emergency news broadcast. They had just received word that an airplane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I was shocked and saddened because obviously I knew people had died, but what I did not know was how many more lives were about to be taken and how much devastation we were about to endure as individuals and as a nation.
As I headed towards my homeroom class ready to watch Channel 1 News, as we always did every morning, most of us knew what had just happened. We watched Channel 1 for a brief moment as they reported on the airplane crashing into one of the towers.
When they had said it might have been terrorist-related, my teacher changed the channel to a national news station, and it was official, terrorists had indeed attacked us. We stayed in homeroom half of the day watching the news huddled together, some of us on the floor crying as we learned one more plane crashed into the other tower, and later the one at The Pentagon, and another in a field right outside of Pennsylvania.
We watched in agony as the towers collapsed leaving only dust in their path. In just an instant, I knew our country was changed forever and life as we knew it as carefree teens was also changed.
We are the 9/11 generation.
The young teenagers, pre-teens, and kids who were still in high school or middle school and even elementary school during the September 11 attacks. We have come of age now and are now bright-eyed college students. I briefly remember a time when there were no long lines at the airport and we had to go through metal detectors practically exposing ourselves, when we could basically bring anything on board without it being confiscated, with the exception of sharp objects of course.
I knew things were different when now we could no longer bring shampoo bottles or soft drinks or other mundane things. Rules were a lot stricter and we grew up with color-coded terror alerts and with the fear of war on terror always on our minds.
So just as I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when 9/11 happened, I will never forget where I was when I heard Osama Bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda, the one who was responsible for 3,000 deaths on September 11, had been killed by U.S. Navy Seals in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011.
I was studying for finals when a friend of mine texted me the news. I didn’t believe her at first but when I turned on the TV it was true after all, soon it was all over the internet. I felt a sense of happiness, not because of his death but what his death symbolized. Justice had been served, not just to those who lost someone on that tragic day, but to our generation, a generation that has lived in fear.
We have our freedom back and we are no longer afraid.