Does 9/11 Hold Meaning for College Students?

This September 11 marks ten years passed from a sad event that has had effects around the world. But how does it affect today’s college students? They were in elementary school at the time – too young for many to understand what had happened – and, among University of Kansas students at least, much of the real impact was far away in New York.

“Well, everything kind of died out quicker than I could really understand it,” says Maci Boe, a sophomore from Colorado at the University of Kansas who was nine at the time. “I noticed that patriotism was kicked up a lot but it took a while for me to understand why.” Afterwards, she says, her life went on as normal and nowadays she only thinks of the attacks when an anniversary approaches.

Christopher Weber, a senior from Kansas, has stronger memories of the day. “I remember a teacher interrupting Mrs. Miller’s class and turning the TV to live news,” he says. He adds, however, “It was scary, but it didn’t affect us that much. Being in Kansas and having that happening in New York we didn’t get a real feel of what was really happening.”

Christopher is currently in the ROTC program (an armed forces officer training program for college students), a decision he says was not related to the 9/11 attacks, which means he could be asked to serve in combat. He says of the possibility, “President Obama has set 2014 as the date for all the troops to come back, which is good. After all we can’t stay in another country’s backyard forever, right?” He adds, “but I would still like to serve in Afghanistan, combat experience is needed to be a good officer” he adds.

Ryan Felton, a senior from Alabama, also saw the news coverage of 9/11 that day in school. “Teachers interrupted their classes and started airing the news in every classroom.” “But,” she recalls, “they weren’t explaining what really happened. In my case I only figured it out by the third or fourth period of class.”

According to Ryan, it is the American response to the attacks that has most stayed with her. “Remember ‘freedom fries’ or ‘freedom kisses?,'” she asks, referring to the movement to replace the word “french” in french fries and french kisses when France did not back the Iraq War. “People were so dumb!”

““When I go to the airport I’m more afraid of the guy searching for liquids on every corner of my body than a terrorist,” she jokes.

Tazrian Rahman is from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and says the impact was certainly felt among the Muslim community. Her sister was studying in the U.S. at the time. Tazrian says, “She used to tell us how she lost all her American friends, and she stopped praying because people would get angry when they saw that.”

Whether or not students remember the attacks or feel their lives have been directly impacted, many will take time out today to remember the day and the lives that were lost. Here are some pictures of what is being done here at KU: