September 11 as a Distant Memory

Photo by Srijan Sen

For many students at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, 9/11 has become a distant memory of a “terrible tragedy” that happened when they were young.

William Matthews, a UWM senior, has trouble recollecting exactly how he felt when planes went into the twin towers in New York.

He sat on the chair with a grim look on his face and said, “To be honest with you, I cannot remember much.”

While some students remember learning about 9/11 in their classrooms, others were sent home where they discovered what happened for the first time. William remembered being sent home without being told why.

“It was a normal day in elementary school,” Matthews said, looking down at the floor. “We were sent home early without any reason. I turned on the television when I got home. It looked like something you only see in movies.”

For most students 9/11 is something they saw on television, heard from friends and family — and now something that they read in a history book.

UWM student Clair Sprenger recalled her mother being on an airplane trip at the time. Clair — who is majoring in political science — says her parents shielded her, and her younger brother from the television coverage.

“We found out about it at school.” Sprenger said. “I remember writing a patriotic letter and making American flags in class during the following week.”

Although life in the United States changed dramatically after 9/11, the impact was felt all over the world. Lauren Forester, a UWM sophomore, was living in England at the time. She remembered being confused while watching 9/11 unfold on television.

“I couldn’t believe a couple of planes could make that happen. I guess it didn’t affect me as dramatically as it affected American kids.”