Of the thousands of students who started their higher education careers at East Carolina University and Pitt Community College this year, the vast majority are 17 or 18 years old. It is therefore on this day that we are reminded that these young men and women were only 5 or 6 years old when hijackers took control of commercial aircraft with the intention of crashing them into cherished American landmarks.
For these young people, the events of that terrible day and the weeks that followed are a memory told in yellowed news stories and dated video clips that lack the full and stunning horror of what transpired. And as we pay tribute to the lives lost 12 years ago, we are reminded that tending to those memories, keeping them alive, helps to preserve that history for the next generation and those to follow.
There are some details that remain indelible, like the image of two proud and majestic towers billowing black smoke against a cloudless blue sky. And there are feelings that are easily memorable— the shock of seeing a second plane strike the World Trade Center and the sickening sense of helplessness watching the buildings fall. For years since, the entire attack has been reduced to three numbers, summarizing everything: 9/11.
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