The effects of 9/11 made an indelible impression on nearly everyone who remembers watching the news of that day unfold. Even 10 years later, the lasting effect of Sept. 11, 2001, can be felt throughout the country.
But how has it affected the lives of young people who were still in the early days of elementary school when the attacks occurred?
Teens who are just embarking on their senior year of high school were only 7 or 8 years old at the time.
Ben Lowery and Buddy Gosey are both seniors at Science Hill High School, and both 17-year-olds have come to understand the meaning behind 9/11, a day neither young man really understood 10 years ago.
“I was 7 years old. My main objective was to go outside and play, but I didn’t fully grasp the understanding that someone killed about 3,000 people,” Lowery said.
Ten years ago, Lowery was in first grade and the word “terrorist” wasn’t even in his vocabulary. Although he was hundreds of miles away from New York City, Lowery said he remembers the confusion caused as the first news of the attacks began to trickle into school.
“My teachers didn’t really tell me anything that was going on. There was just a lot of people talking about something, but they weren’t telling any of the kids,” he said.
It wasn’t until he got home when he asked his mother what had happened as she watched TV. It was then when he first saw the image of the plane flying into the World Trade Center.
“What is that?” he asked, to which his mother said, “America just got attacked.”
Like Lowery, Gosey didn’t understand what was going on at the time. He was sitting in his second-grade music class when his teacher tried to explain what was happening.
“Obviously, we had no idea what was going on. Even if I did, I wasn’t old enough to grasp the concept,” he said.
Later that day, Gosey said students were called to a special assembly, but the confusion over what happened just didn’t make any sense to a 7-year-old, even with his parents’ explanation about what had happened.
“At that age, you don’t understand why someone would do that. You’ve got adults that try to explain it to you the best they can, but at the same time, you’re just really upset that something like that has to happen,” he said.
Gosey said it wasn’t until the first anniversary of the attacks when the magnitude of what had happened first began to sink in.
“I think the healing process started the more people talked about it, and just seeing how much our country came together after such a significant event, it kind of helped to make it seem how big of a deal it was to me,” he said.
Shortly after the attacks, Lowery recalled seeing a number of family friends enlist in the military. He thinks the attacks spurred many men and women to join, especially the “pro-American” stance he remembers much of the country sharing after the attacks.
“It made you angry that someone actually hated you enough that they would kill your neighbor, your friend, your brother or your sister,” he said.
That desire to fight for one’s country has even spread to Lowery, who said he is seriously about joining the military.
“I’m wanting to go into the Army, and it was kind of something I had always wanted to do,” he said.
For students in Tennessee, both Lowery and Gosey haven’t seen much change in the classroom as it pertains to 9/11. But whenever the anniversary comes back around, the class discussion shifts to that tragic day.
“I wouldn’t say it’s limited to history class. A lot of lives were touched and a lot of teachers were affected. Discussions are throughout classes, especially when the anniversary rolls around,” Gosey said.
When asked what they thought post-9/11 America was like, each teen had differing opinions.
Gosey thinks the country has become more cautious, while also becoming a more unified country. Lowery said he believed the country was unified at the time of the attacks, but has since lost that sense of unity.
“Life is going back to normal. People are starting to forget,” Lowery said.
Looking at the 10th anniversary of the attacks, both students said it’s an event that should continue to be remembered.
“Not only do you have to remember the brave souls who ran into that burning building but all the lives lost and all the people that are still fighting that battle today,” Gosey said.