Always at War

The class of 2020 is the last WCA graduating class to have any students alive during 9/11



An image of the twin towers taken during the attack.

As I walked down the stairs on Wednesday morning, headed to the kitchen to grab breakfast before heading out the door, I was confused why the TV was on so early in the morning. Then, as I looked up at the screen, I saw the nostalgic image of the two towers, black smoke billowing from the north tower as the second plane pummeled into the corner of the south.

For adults across the United States, these sights and sounds transport them to the exact moment and place when they first heard the news that America was under attack. These are memories they’ll never forget.

“I was in my classroom at the old campus, and the principal’s wife at the time knocked on my door and told me that a plane had flown into the twin towers. My class was reviewing for a test, but we watched a little bit [on the news], went on with reviewing, and then by the time we turned it back on, the second tower had been hit, and the word ‘terrorism’ was being thrown out. 9/11 really changed the way we operate as a country and the way we think about the world. There is not another day in my lifetime that changed America as much as Sep. 11, 2001,” said Mr. Ken Boesch, upper school American government teacher, recalling where he was at the exact moment of the attacks on the morning of Sep. 11.

Most teachers, parents, and adults today could likely describe their exact location and response when they learned America was experiencing a terrorist attack. 9/11 is a “date which will live in infamy” just like President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the Pearl Harbor attacks on Dec. 7, 1941.

But for me, this feeling of nostalgia brings me back to elementary school history lessons, YouTube videos of the newscasts from the infamous day, and stories about where my family was on Sep. 11, 2001. I don’t have my own memories from the day of one of America’s worst attacks, and like most of my senior classmates, my mom was pregnant with me on this day, and I was not born for several more months.

Almost all current high school students in America, and of course all future students, were not alive or were only a few days old on the day of America’s greatest tragedy. This year, the 18th anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks, thousands of high school seniors will turn 18, and the class of 2020 is the very last class to include any students who were alive in Sep. 2001.
As Mr. David Ottolini shared in chapel last Wednesday, students in America today have never experienced a world before 9/11. We have always had to take off our shoes at the airport. We are accustomed to security checks and metal detectors at Cardinals’ games and concerts. We don’t remember a time when America did not have a Department of Homeland Security. We’re never shocked when TSA agents ruffle through our bags before a flight. And perhaps most importantly, we have never lived in a time when America has not been at war.

“It’s very significant [that almost all of the students at Westminster and all future students were not alive during 9/11] because none of the Westminster students from here forward will remember or know anything about a pre-9/11 world. In talking to the seniors this year, I was amazed at how many kids only thought there were two rather than four planes. And it is hard to explain to students how many things in our society have changed since then as far as airports, security in general, and just how we go about our daily business,” said Boesch.

As high school students in America today, we do not remember a time when our country has not had soldiers deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other countries, fighting the war on terrorism and protecting our freedom and safety. We have been at war for 18 long years — our entire lives. Some students may never have fully realized this truth about America today, and others may be deeply concerned for our nation, but it is a startling reality to grasp that we have never lived in America during a time of peace or secured safety. 9/11 was a day that tore the promise of safety away from us and attempted to demolish our foundations of freedom, independence, and hope.

Therefore, all Americans, especially those of my generation and younger, desperately need to reflect on the words of former President George W. Bush: “Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died with honor. We will remember every family that lives with grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children. . . We are confident, too, that history has an Author, Who fills time and eternity with His purpose. We know that evil is real, but good will prevail against it.”