Fifteen Years Later
If you’re like most teens today, you aren’t old enough to remember Sept. 11, 2001, firsthand. You have little or no personal memory of learning about the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon as they were happening. You didn’t spend hours in front of the TV like your parents and older siblings watching images of burning buildings and twisted wreckage. You may have seen the movie Flight 93, but don’t remember the news reports of the doomed passengers who forced their plane to crash rather than allow it to hit the White House, widely reported as its intended destination.
Shannon Murphy, 16, a junior at Piedmont High School near Oakland, learned about 9/11 from her mother, a firefighter, but has no personal memory of that day. “(My mother) would talk about people she knew and how that could have been scary for her to be in that situation,” Murphy says. “When I was in New York with my family, we visited the (9/11) memorial. My parents were definitely teary eyed and upset about the whole thing. My brother and I… he didn’t understand because we were so young when it happened. He wasn’t even born.”
Even as memories of the day recede,September 11, 2001, continues to have a major impact on American foreign and domestic policy and looms large in our collective consciousness. Even those of us not old enough to remember the day know the basic facts: On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 19 men affiliated with the Al-Qaeda terrorist group hijacked four commercial airplanes. Two of those airplanes were flown intentionally into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, destroying both buildings. One was crashed into the Pentagon. The passengers on the final airplane, Flight 93, overpowered the hijackers and intentionally crashed into a vacant Pennsylvania field. In all, 2,977 people died that day making it the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
Parents and siblings who remember the events of that day also remember the way the world was before--and what has changed. Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States became involved in the War on Terror, sending troops first to Iraq, then to Afghanistan. On the domestic front, immigration regulations tightened and deportations skyrocketed. Congress passed the U.S. Patriot Act granting the government expanded power to conduct surveillance, and created the Department of Homeland Security. Attacks against Muslims and incidents of Islamophobia increased sharply. Muslims complained especially of being unfairly singled out at airports, where a security overhaul resulted in long lines and heavily regulated checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration, founded after 9/11, now has a watch list of over 700,000 names of people who they say may pose a flight safety risk.