When I first started reporting on Patriot Day’s ceremonies, a reflection on the loss of nearly 3,000 lives, the high school students could remember that day. When I reported on an inaugural 9/11 flag raising ceremony at an elementary school, I saw the first through fifth grade students pause to honor people who died before they were born. The ceremonies are as somber as that day was.
When the Delaware County Emergency Services Training Center fire school instructor encouraged us to tell the next generation about how 9/11 impacted us and what we remember about it, I had wondered what the students are taught in school about it. When I asked elementary school officials in Downingtown, they said they provide parents with resources to assist them in teaching their child about Sept. 11, 2001 if they decide to talk about it as a family. In school, the students are taught about honoring those who serve in the military and as first responders.
Students now in their senior year were likely two years old when 9/11 occurred. One of the fire school instructors said that it’s up to us to teach the next generation of firefighters about the events of 9/11 because it was a hard day for America, and it was a hard day in the fire service when 343 firefighters died.
The weekend before the 16-year anniversary of 9/11 the staff and students watched a documentary together at the training center during our lunch break. A documentarian was filming firefighters that day and while they were on scene of a gas leak, they saw an airplane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center and they immediately responded to that incident.
One part of the documentary that amazed me was that the chief officers who helped with the operations of the firefighters didn’t know for a while that it was a terrorist attack. Before a second hijacked airplane hit the south tower, the news media had already reported that one plane had been hijacked and hit the tower. One of the firefighters in the documentary said that everyone outside of the towers had more knowledge about the attacks than those who went in to help, because of the news reports.
When I came home to my family after school, I knew they would talk to me about what happened. I told them what we saw on the TV news, including the second plane crash. I’ll never forget how my classmates and I gasped when we saw that. It seemed unreal. We also saw the first-responders and civilians helping the injured. That night as a family we watched the news and saw New York City residents come together with candlelight and American flags in their hands. America mourned together. United we stand, became the theme. The next morning my mom and I read the newspaper together and we continued to follow the news reports.
Looking back at it, I realized that people would learn about 9/11 as the details unfolded, and we would all be impacted in different ways. Being 12 at the time, I didn't realize how much that day had impacted me. As the years went on, I developed a desire to serve in some capacity, but I didn’t know what would be a good fit. Many more years passed before I joined the fire service and my only regret is not joining sooner. I heard from others that the attacks led them to the fire service. Volunteerism in the fire service increased after the terrorist attacks, but sadly it’s been declining over the years.