When the World Stopped Turning

Photo by Michael Kohl

A beautiful September morning in Germantown Wisconsin turned tragic in no time. In Mrs. Weiner’s third grade class at County Line Elementary Cody Szohr, 8 at the time, was getting back into the swing of things heading in to his second week of school. A sudden call over the loud speaker sent the teachers quickly out of their rooms and into the principal’s office. Szohr noticed something was different after they came back. That is when his teachers broke the news of the series of terrorist attacks we know as 9/11.

“I could see the difference in their faces but I didn’t understand it,” Cody said after being told the news.

As years go by, it’s become increasingly difficult for incoming college students to not only remember September, 9/11, but to fully understand its significance. It’s evident that there will be a group of college students one day that have no memory of 9/11 except from a history textbook.

This year is the 12th anniversary of that tragic day, and although majority of today’s citizens are moved just by the thought of the attacks, many incoming UWM students have very little, if any, recollection of 9/11. Marisa Camacho, a sophomore and Cody Szohr, a senior, are two examples of UWM students who have little remembrance of the towers falling.

Take Szohr for example. Although this is his fourth year at the university, Szohr was only in third grade when 9/11 happened and couldn’t comprehend what his teacher had told him. Pieces of the puzzle started to unravel when he arrived home from school. Tammy, his mom, was in tears cuddled up next to his dad Jeff as he walked in the door. She looked her son in the eye as drops ran down her face.

“We’ve been bombed,” she said.

Szohr still didn’t know what that meant or what was going on, but it was beginning to become more relevant. Later that night he was in his room with his neighbor Matt Adair, 11. Since Szohr was still having trouble with understanding 9/11, Adair decided to draw it out for him. Reaching into Szohr’s closet, he brought out an etch a sketch. Adair diagramed the attacks for Szhor with the hope that he would understand the magnitude of the situation. Although Szohr partially understood, he still hadn’t fully grasped the concept.

“The first time it really hit me was when we decided to go to war because of 9/11” said Cody. That’s when Szohr knew these devastating events were of large circumstance.

Today Szohr knows the magnitude of that day, much like UWM sophomore, Marisa Camacho. However, her recollection of the events on that day is more limited than Cody’s. While driving with her dad, Jim, on the way to her first grade class at St. Williams Elementary in Waukesha, there was an announcement that came over the radio.

“I was seven years old, so I wasn’t really paying attention to what they were saying,” said Camacho.

However, Jim was, and when he heard the news of the first plane hitting the tower he wasn’t too pleased.

“Not the towers again!” he said with an outburst.

Jim of course was referring to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing which occurred beneath the north tower by a group of Muslim terrorists. The bombing killed six and wounded thousands, but the plot to bring the towers down was ineffective. Surprisingly, that was the only memory of that day that Marisa had. She knew what happened but it didn’t hit home until the next weekend. While watching talk shows on television, she witnessed families of the victims sharing their heartbreaking stories.

“That’s when I first realized how bad this incident was,” said Camacho

Notice the two interviewees. Both were young elementary school children that lived and witnessed one of America’s greatest tragedies. Yet, their accounts of the incident were vague and lacked emotional investment.

It became less likely for one to recall information the lower in age you went (Marisa vs. Cody). Eventually, there will be a group of freshman college students who will have no recollection of 9/11 at all. Instead, they will only see this unfortunate time as a past event in U.S. history.