When September 11 rolls around, Queens native Taylor McLean looks back 15 years and clearly remembers her kindergarten teacher putting on the TV and, with all her classmates, watching the Twin Towers burn to the ground. She remembers her mom picking her up from school and seeing crowds of people walking along Queens Boulevard because no one was allowed to take the trains. They gave two women a ride home that day.
Miami born and raised Thalia Garcia, who was also in kindergarten, remembers being lined up at school and going home early.
While Garcia did not know anyone who passed away, McLean had a lot of friends growing up whose parents were firefighters or police officers who lost their lives that day. The attack almost took someone from her own family.
“My uncle actually, his brother worked in the towers, but that day he was running late to work and he got out of the train and saw all of the chaos going on,” McLean said.
To these two 20-year-old women, September 11, 2001 has a completely different meaning. For McLean, the anniversary is a time to reflect and mourn. For Garcia, it is just another routine day. The lasting impact, or lack thereof, on them is a microcosm of how 9/11 has lost much of its significance outside of New York, the surrounding area and Washington D.C.
“I obviously think it was a horrible thing, but it’s not something that I carry with me on that date,” Garcia said.
Fifteen years later, the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in America is still a big deal in New York. McLean said that her high school would always have a tribute with flags and family names of loved ones that were lost. There would be a moment of silence and a prayer. Her school would put the news on all day to remember the occasion.
Over 1,000 miles south, the date was not honored in the same fashion at Garcia’s school.
“In high school they would do a moment of silence over the PA system, but that was basically the extent of it,” Garcia said.
As a New Yorker living in Miami, McLean feels the lack of solemnity each year on September 11.
“It’s not as remembered here,” McLean said. “It’s definitely still a moment of tragedy, but it’s definitely a way bigger deal in New York than it is in Florida.”
High schools are not the only example of how the memory of September 11 is fading among those who were not directly affected.
Every year, the names of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed that day are read at the World Trade Center by relatives of the deceased, volunteers and emergency service workers. The New York news stations broadcast the entire memorial.
On Miami news stations, the names are only displayed along the bottom of the screen during the routine news programs.
For junior Erin Regan, the only reminders of 9/11 were the American flags surrounding the U statue. She wasn’t sure if there was a memorial held at The Rock, which there was, because so little attention was given to the event.
Regan has lived in five different states. She was living in West Palm Beach, Florida when the towers fell. Though it was far from the World Trade Center, the event still affected her family. Many of her family members lived in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, only an hour and a half away from Shanksville where United Airlines Flight 93 went down. Her parents also had a friend who died on that flight.
Regan associates September 11 with watching a lot of news. Her mom runs news stations, so the TV was always on in her house growing up. On top of that, her dad also listened to a lot of talk radio.
“I remember everywhere I went all I was hearing about was this event and I was confused and scared, but mainly confused because I just didn’t get it. I was five,” Regan said.
During her senior year of high school, she was living in Richmond, Virginia. Regan went on a class trip to Washington, D.C. around the time of the anniversary. They visited the Newseum, which has an entire section dedicated to 9/11 and even has a piece of one of the towers. She recalls everyone leaving in tears after watching a film about the infamous attack.
The day has been remembered differently everywhere that she has lived. According to Regan, Richmond is one of the places that most honors September 11.
She attributes some of the diminishing attention to 9/11 to the time that has passed.
“I do think [its significance] overall is lost unless you make an effort now,” Regan said. “Whereas I feel like in the first 10 years after, it was a big day.”
In fact, so much time has passed that 9/11 is now being taught in history classes, as current high school freshmen weren’t born yet. If September 11, 2001 becomes just another date in history that students have to memorize, eventually it will have the significance that Pearl Harbor holds today.
Lizzie is a junior double majoring in media management and french. She is currently the Travel Editor for distractionmagazine.com, and writes for the print magazine as well. Born and raised on Long Island, New York, Lizzie loves working out, going to concerts, traveling and of course, writing.
words and pictures_ lizzie wilcox.