On the morning of September 11, 2001, I sat in my high chair gnawing on cheerios while a shocked country watched the unfolding of tragic events that would forever change our lives. After a day of watching the news on the edge of her seat, my grandma looked over at my eleven-month-old self and said, “Welcome to the world, baby.”
Most of us students at Cienega High School were either not yet born or far too young to remember this fateful day, and that’s what makes the annual memorial held on 9/11 so important. In history, we learn about the American Revolution and World War II, but while we understand the gravity of the past and can imagine what it was like for those at the time, it’s still just that- something we must imagine. We read about it from our textbooks and we look at the political cartoons and propaganda, but 9/11 is a real and tangible event that has had an enormous impact in our own lifetimes. As quoted by Ron Burton, “It’s really electrifying for the kids…it’s the most powerful thing they can do because there’s nothing like living history.” The observance of the memorial is not only a way to pay our respects to those first responders who gave their lives but also for us youth to understand what happened and how salient the tragedy was to our country’s story.
Eric Tatham vocalizes that what he wants students to get from the memorial is a sense of patriotism. “Being a part of the ceremony, you get a sense of community and a sense of culture, a sense of being an American…that idea that we’re all in this together,” he notes, iterating the way that the memorial brings us all together as Americans. All of us silent, standing there in the center courtyard and watching the color guard present the flags and play Taps- an indescribable experience that we could get nowhere else.
Cienega’s memorials are eye-opening and heartfelt, uniting the school and teaching youth what it’s like to live through a major event in America’s timeline, as well as to respect first responders for their bravery and dedication to serving the people of the nation no matter the circumstance. Thanks to the memorial, students receive a lesson they could never receive in the seats of a classroom.