At 8:00 a.m., it seemed just like any other sunny day when young children would go off to school and adults would go to work. At 8:46 a.m., everything changed when American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked and flown into the North Twin Tower in New York City, causing many to be immediately killed. The crash made it seem as if the whole building was going to immediately collapse onto numerous people. Fires began and flames surrounded people inside the tower, leaving them trapped. Elevators shut down, people were hanging onto buildings and particles of the infrastructure were falling into the streets as the world stood still. 

“I remember in the moment, we just could not turn the TVs off,” history teacher Stephanie McCann said. “They were on all the time, and like I said [my] twins were 3 [years old]. And though they probably don’t really remember it either, they probably remember bits and pieces. Even Mr. McCann, as a three-year-old, said to me one day, ‘Is our roof gonna fall down?’ And I just thought, ‘This is what they’re seeing. They’re not really processing it like adults, but these are the images they’re seeing.’ Whether that sticks with them or not, that was part of every family.” 

At 9:03 a.m., the United Airlines Flight 175 flew into the South Twin Tower. People within the World Trade Center left voicemails for their families, some of which were the last words ever heard from them. Firefighters were rushing through the buildings trying to save people, and citizens were running through the streets simply trying to breathe and survive. Sep. 11, 2001 was a day that Americans will never forget. It was a day filled with much grief, sadness and fear. Although 9/11 happened 20 years ago, for many older people it feels like yesterday. The younger generation, however, will never know the feeling of watching the attack unfold, as it occurred before their lifetime. 

“Nobody expects that they’re going to fly a plane into a building,” English teacher Jessica Kerner said. “All of the things that followed after, I think the hardest part was seeing the newspaper the next day and seeing this big whole spread on the newspaper, and you could see people falling out of the windows and jumping out of the windows. I think that really hit me the next day, when you’re watching the video footage and see people so frightened. That… that was so powerful.”

During the aftermath of 9/11, many people went missing and thousands of lives were lost. As a result, America grew a sense of unity; a unity that has allowed fellow Americans to gather every year to remember those who passed and those who survived. It is a unity that has also created a safe space for Americans to continue to reflect on the day even 20 years later. 

For the 20 year anniversary, citizens gathered at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum where the Twin Towers laid prior to the terrorist attack. People wore blue ribbons throughout the ceremony in order to symbolize the remembrance of lives that were lost. During the ceremony, the names of those who lost their lives in the attack (over 2,600 people) were read aloud. There were also six moments of silence that represented the Twin Towers being struck by the planes, when each tower fell, the attack at the Pentagon and the crash of the United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. 

While this year 9/11 fell on a Saturday, Maclay students and faculty members had a moment of silence the day before to respectfully remember the tragic events of Sep. 11. Although none of the current students were alive that day, many faculty members at Maclay vividly remember watching the news and recall the catastrophic and grievous day that was Sep. 11. 

“On Sep. 11, I was living in Kings Street, South Carolina,” English teacher Lee Norment said. “I had finished college the May before that and had moved to my family farm. I was in the living room of our house and I was watching SportsCenter on ESPN, and they interrupted that program to talk about the first plane crash. I knew that something was really bad for them to interrupt ESPN for it, and then I spent the next few hours watching the news. One of my best friends was living in Brooklyn, New York, and he called me to let me know he was okay, but we talked on the phone for a really long time until we got cut off because the phone system was overloaded. I wasn’t necessarily afraid or anything like that. I was in rural South Carolina. I think I was feeling disappointed that our world could create people that would want to do that. I didn’t agree with what they did, but thinking about how America has interacted with the world over the last 10 years, it becomes understandable that people are very frustrated with Americans. It’s just kind of sad and disappointing that we got to that point where terrorists would do that, but also our country hadn’t built enough goodwill in the world to prevent that.”

“To me, when I think of 9/11, I think of innocence taken,” McCann said. “I think of unity that would be nice for us to have, but I don’t think it’s realistic. I know it’s probably cynical of me also as an American history teacher. It’s just not real, and I really don’t look at myself as a cynical kind of person. But it would be nice if we could have not more of the 9/11 moments, but more of those moments of unity. We have Fourth of July, and sometimes on Memorial Days, but even then those days have become more of a social. ‘Let’s get together and grill out,’ as opposed to really remembering the meanings of those dates. This year, we didn’t really do anything. We had a moment of silence in homeroom, but I have found in the past when I’ve tried to dedicate that day to discuss 9/11, the response is often sympathetic, but some people look at it as ‘It’’s in the past, you might as well be talking about World War II.’” 

“I was in high school as a junior,” Kerner said. “I was sixteen when it happened. I was leaving class to go to my locker and a friend came running up to me and said ‘Hey did you just hear a plane hit the World Trade Center?’ And that was kind of the most vivid piece of that day. I think at first it was kind of awe and maybe a little confusion, like it was kind of that ‘what just happened?’ moment. But then it’s just like you didn’t really know what to feel like. For me, that’s one of the most momentous things that ever happened in my lifetime that I remember and was old enough to understand. I was in high school, and high schoolers, and I don’t mean this in a rude way, are self-centered at times. It’s your limited experience. It’s what you know. You’re used to your space and your people and everything you do revolves around you when you’re that age, and so this was the first time it was bigger than me.”

Although high school students today have only heard stories based on what they learned through school and family members, 9/11 has still impacted them. The changes made to airports throughout the years and the fear of a similar event still affect society today. Additionally, much of the younger generation still sympathizes with families who lost someone in the attack. Though the day occurred 20 years ago, it has had a lasting impact that allows old and young generations to speak on their experiences and their feelings. Sep. 11 is truly a day that will never be thrown in the shadows, for it is a day that not only changed America, but has allowed the country to never forget.

“It’s hard and traumatic to learn about because a lot of people died that day,” senior Katelynn Large said. “That’s painful. I mean I didn’t know anybody, but that’s painful. It’s a day of great loss and was a pivotal moment for America and the American people. As people, as us, our generation, we didn’t understand it when it was going on. We just knew that the government was taking care of it, and now our generation finally has that understanding of nowhere is safe. Sure it could be safer, but nowhere is safe. It could happen on a bus. It could happen in a carpool lane. It could happen anywhere, not just on planes.”