POLITICS & ISSUES

Can Youth Today Truly Understand 9/11?

Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 forever altered the American psyche and changed the course of history globally. 

It has been 19 years since 9/11 occurred, claiming the lives of 2,996 innocent Americans going to work on a typical day – fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. The event left New York City in shambles, emotionally and physically. 

The downtown World Trade Center towers and Manhattan skyline had always stood proudly as the invincible bastion of wealth, the American free market economy, the possibilities of prosperity and liberty for all.  On this day, it laid in a ruinous pile downtown of fire, smoke, twisted steel and an inconceivable loss of humanity and broken dreams.  

The sense of safety America had was gone. Decades since have involved two costly wars with more loss of life, profound changes to national security and a societal distrust of people and events. Can today’s youth fully grasp how big of an impact 9/11 has had on the world?

For younger generations who never experienced 9/11, the sense of imminent danger is minimal, but for survivors of that day, the impact will never be forgotten. 

David Blumetti was a 35-year-old from Middletown, New Jersey, who worked in 5 World Trade Center as a successful commodities broker for over 15 years. Blumetti, a newlywed at that time, overslept that day and arrived at his office at Ground Zero outside just as the first plane hit.  Nearly everyone who worked with him perished including 26 residents of his hometown. 

He soon stopped working in New York, gave up his career, and started bartending at home in New Jersey.  

His life is forever changed, but his daughter, who is now 16, seems personally unaffected other than feeling sadness when seeing images on TV. 

“The societal and governmental changes occurred before a lot of the younger generations were born or aware, so they grew up with the changes already in place and feel quite complacent about security . . . There are many measures that are taken now for the safety of the people that weren’t around before 9/11. 

“From banking to travel, many rules have been implemented that younger generations aren’t aware of.  They don’t know there are reasons they have to take their shoes off at the airport and can’t carry many items in their luggage, etc.”

Blumetti believes society must educate younger generations about the possible dangers of the world or we face the possibility of history repeating. 

“The dangers the world faces each day with terrorism should be taught, and it is our responsibility to leave a legacy wherein they are informed and aware of the possible terrorists situations if they are not aware,” he said. “Younger generations should never take for granted the safety of life we all enjoy here.”

Another severe psychological impact of the event is a common mistrust of promises that Americans are safe from harm, an indication of unhealed wounds. A June Gallup poll conducted in 2017 found that 38% of Americans are less willing to attend large events due to terrorism and 26% are less likely to enter skyscrapers fearing terrorism. This mistrust will always linger in the minds of the generations that experienced 9/11.

Joan Carroll was a 40-year-old mother of three from Deal, New Jersey on 9/11 working as Wall Street lawyer, who was at Ground Zero because her train broke down that day, giving her a bird’s eye view of the whole tragedy. 

“I became more aware of my surroundings and became very cautious and suspect of everyone around me,” she said. “I am not trusting of anyone or anything, especially when I am in New York City. The wounds run deep, and the trust is hard to earn back, even though no one is to blame but the terrorists themselves. Terrorism is based in murder and destruction of innocent people.” 

 “Younger generations were spared the visual horror in person. They see the videos and photographs, but there is a huge difference between watching it on videos and actually being in it, thinking you are under attack and could die along with people you see dying in front of you. 

“As parents, we have tried to protect our children from these images and horrors, but it’s actually, as they age, a huge disservice, as they need to know it all to best prepare their generation against it.” 

Carroll also left her career of 20 years and returned to New Jersey to raise her children and be a stay-at-home mother. “That day really put my priorities in order,” she said. “Even though I couldn’t really afford to not work, I knew I had to figure it out and live each day to the fullest for my family and with my family.”

Similarly, Patricia Hart Zackman, a 20-year veteran of graphic arts and design for Nickelodeon, was a 41-year-old mother from Long Branch, New Jersey. “We have to teach everyone, especially our future generations, that if you see something, say something,” she said.

Zackman was coming through the Lincoln Tunnel when the attacks happened. Her sister had just phoned her to explain what was happening when the cell phones cut out.

She was stuck there for quite some time, helpless and cut off from the world as cell phones, ATMs, and other things didn’t work. She returned to New Jersey, became a freelance photographer, and raised her two sons. 

“I can never forget the atrocities of that day,” she said. “I do sleep at night knowing we are safer now than before, but I hope the vigilance and diligence is carried forward into future generations because this can never happen again.”  

No one will ever be the same. The survivors of 9/11 look to educate the younger generations. 

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