On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I sat in homeroom surrounded by my fellow sixth graders, unaware of the seriousness of the situation that was unfolding around me.
I knew that my father and his brother were both New York City firefighters that had been at work that morning. Coming home that afternoon, I found mom in our den crying in front of the TV, without my dad. I was panicked after seeing the images and videos of terror on the news, and finally beginning to understand the magnitude of these attacks.
Thankfully, both my dad and uncle were alive and OK, despite their companies being among the first responders to Lower Manhattan. My dad lost his battalion chief (Ladder 115, Long Island City), while my uncle lost eight of his brothers (Ladder 24, Greenwich Village). In the coming weeks, I watched as my dad spent days in the city at a time, dividing himself between the funerals of friends and fellow firefighters and helping the efforts at ground zero.
On Sunday, we commemorated the 10-year anniversary of that Sept. 11, 2001. For myself, and most of you reading this, those 10 years have dominated half of our lives. As a now 21-year-old, I have grown to realize the impact that the events of that morning have had on my life, both personally and on a larger, international scale.
This coming spring I will graduate from Geneseo with not only degrees in history and Spanish, but also with what I hope is a greater understanding of the world around me. I wanted to study history to fulfill a desire to attempt to understand the violence committed against the United States that day.
Above all, my history classes have taught me to take a step back and examine my surroundings through a variety of lenses, to put myself in someone else's shoes. Living in Spain for a semester taught me to fully appreciate how truly lucky I am to live in a place like the U.S.
The attacks committed against America on Sept. 11, 2001 were horrific, and it does well to honor those that died, served and continue to serve for our country. We must also, however, look to the future.
Now more than ever, we must be cognizant of where we stand within the context of local, national and global issues, because it is undeniable that they affect us daily. We as students have been given the intellectual tools to foster solutions to these conflicts later in life and outside of Geneseo through the critical thinking skills we have cultivated in classes like humanities. It would be thoughtless and irresponsible to remain ignorant of the conflicts that develop around us every day.
If we take the initiative, I believe that we, as members of the 9/11 Generation, have the power to at least play a small part in affecting the American democracy in a global context for the better, so that we can celebrate the lives of those 3,497 heroes that died for us 10 years ago.