By Cresonia Hsieh
DELRAY BEACH, Florida – Last week, alot of teachers tried to get me and my classmates to really think about anddiscuss the September 11 attacks, but they didn’t get very far.
We were six years old then, and noone could remember much.
“What do you guys remember from9/11?” my history teacher asked our eleventh grade history class on Friday.
The class remained silent while wetried to recall memories from first grade.
Some kids told indifferent storiesabout what their parents experienced, others mentioned a name or two who diedin one of the World Trade Center towers, but most of us we couldn’t rememberanything.
Nearly every teacher raised the subject of 9/11 that day, but as students who were too young to remember, we just tried to understand.
My peers spent the whole day rowdy and talkative during the designated momentof silence.
They laughed as the mixed chorus’attempted to sing, “Unsung Heroes” and guffawed at the facial expression ourchorus teacher made while belting out the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
It wasn’t until one of our teachers sharedan essay from a former student – a boy who had lived in Manhattan and survivedthe attack on New York – that the lesson sunk in.
Thomas Panevino, who graduated frommy Florida high school four years ago, had been a Manhattan seventh grader whenhe saw the horror of the attacks on his city with his own eyes.
Before reading Thomas’s story, Inever knew what truly happened that day.
The never-ending clips of the twin towers falling were almostmeaningless to me.
Sure, it was a horrible tragedy thatour country endured, but I didn’t personally know anyone who died because of9/11.
As far as I was concerned, the eventsof that day were just irrelevant.
I contacted Thomas and he agreed toan interview.
Since the days of my first grade,9/11 has often been portrayed with the declaration, “We Will Never Forget,” butfor me and many others my age, we never truly knew.
So on Friday, instead of answers ourteacher’s question about how we felt about that day, we responded withquestions for them.
“Who were the Taliban? What were youdoing that day? What was it like?”
Perhaps it will be because people likeThomas and his family – and the many others who were affected by the events of9/11 – share their stories that Americans will always remember the significanceof the terrorist attacks.
Today, I have Thomas to thank for anew appreciation of that historic day.
Not only have I learned what happened,but also that life is precious, a true gift.
Because of September 11, I can honestly say that’s a lesson I“will never forget.”
Read Cresonia Hsieh’s news story about Thomas Panevino here.