Monuments not just faceless names


It might look like a leftover Jenga block from the age of the Titans, but it’s not. A crude and rusted steel beam serves as a reminder of the millennial generation’s Pearl Harbor, and it’s standing in Erie.The beam is one of the remains from the Twin Towers destroyed on 9/11, and is part of a memorial monument at the Blasco public library. Most of the people my age can recall a few details from that day 15 years ago, but we were too young to understand what had really happened.
My anthropology professor casually remarked it had passed during our Monday class as he made jokes about the obnoxiously patriotic songs and movies that ensued shortly after. Yes, it was an extreme response, but I think the situation was extreme in the context of our history.
We had been happily strolling along in a peaceful decade, perhaps for too long. No, I am not saying anyone working at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon or in national security deserved such a rude awakening. They didn’t.
All the Americans who were suddenly faced with racism didn’t deserve it either.
You know how there are “random,” high-profile security checks at the airport? Those probably wouldn’t exist without 9/11.
Airport security was pretty much unheard of, as was the stereotype that Muslims are violent people.
The year 2001 had America convinced we were in the crusades all over again.
I was in the first grade and our teacher lined us up and walked us to the church down the street from my parish-centered elementary school. The priest said something about terrible plane crashes, people dying in New York, and a plane down in Pennsylvania.
Of course, my 6-year-old self didn’t quite understand the size of Pennsylvania and half expected to see an aluminum plane skeleton in my backyard. My parents had to explain to me later that night that the plane crashed far away from us, and that we would be safe.
Looking back, I’m not sure they believed it themselves.
Anymore, reports of bombings, violence and terrorism appear in the news almost daily. If it’s not in the U.S., people are threatened in Europe. And who knows how much violence goes unreported in Asian and African countries?
Some people, most of them older than me, remember 9/11 as an atrocity, but don’t always acknowledge such “atrocities” are commonplace in war-stricken parts of the world.
Other people, including those in my age group, got wrapped up in the romance of the patriotism that spread after the event, and found a new love for country or a new career in the military.
Before my fiancé left for boot camp, I showed him the 9/11 monument at Blasco library and found a side of him I hadn’t seen before. We read the names on the plaque around the beam, and it was so humbling to realize we were still alive to read it.
I know it’s cliché and cheesy advice, but remembering 9/11 taught me not to take anything for granted. You may never serve as a first responder or find yourself in a life-threatening situation beyond teaching your children to drive, but I believe in making an effort to live to the fullest.
Carpe diem, because you only have one life, and might only have one day.

Kelsey Ghering

[email protected]