"Hey Mrs. Ripp, did you hear we killed that terrorist? You know the guy that dropped the bombs in New York?". So starts my morning teaching 4th graders today. "Actually, he didn't drop a bomb," I reply. "Oh..."
I teach the generation that does not have a "where I was when I heard story." I teach the kids who were born the year of the September 11th attacks, and they therefore do not remember. Something that happened less than 10 years ago has already become a page in the history books, just one more event to happen to America. My students do not know what it feels like to go through an airport without hourlong security lines, or to bring big bottles of shampoo in your carry on. They do not know a world without threat levels or a war on terror. They do not know a world where we haven't been fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan. They do not know America at peace.
I know all of these and so it becomes my duty to shed light on what America was before 9/11. How we knew there were people that hated American values but not that anyone would use planes against us. I knew a world where flying didn't make you nervous, where going abroad and stating you are American didn't make others look at you strange. A world where it was wasn't us versus them all the time, or bombs were hidden in shoes, bottles, or pockets. Where people were given fair trials and most terrorists were in the movies with bad accents. I knew a world where we didn't send soldiers, my brother included, to fight an endless war against a faceless enemy driven by hatred. I knew that world and I hope someday, my students will know it too.