'My eldest learned about 9/11 in second grade through his history class. By third grade, my child was making collages of FBI characters'
By ALEJANDRA AGUERO
Government Administrator, Illinois Department of Employment Security
My ex-husband was driving me to work that morning. We were on Springfield and Wright Street when we heard over the radio that one of the Twin Towers in New York was on fire. It wasn’t clear what had happened.
However, when I arrived to the (UI) Admissions Office, my former colleagues were also tuned in to the radio and were getting updates as they came in. We were in extreme shock and disbelief when we learned that the U.S. was under attack on U.S. soil, especially when a second airplane flew into the second tower, as well as when the Boeing 757 airliner targeted the Pentagon.
The scenes of the rescue attempts of civilians that were caught in the middle of what looked like a war zone were dreadful and heart-wrenching, to say the least. My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of those who didn’t survive 9/11, as well as to the survivors who have to live with this trauma for the rest of their lives.
No doubt, 9/11 changed the American culture forever in more ways than one. In academia, it changed our admissions and recruiting processes due to the newly created Homeland Security Department and their new student visa requirements.
Heightened security measures at the airports and extensive background checks are also all part of the new global culture post 9/11 because we are all interconnected in more ways than one.
Our K-12 schools and the teachers also changed their history curriculums to include information on 9/11. They had the difficult task of explaining the events of 9/11 to their students as they experienced it through the news outlets and social media, if not through direct experience.
I didn’t have any children at the time, but several years later my family had grown to include two boys. My eldest learned about 9/11 in second grade through his history class. By third grade, my child was making collages of FBI characters.
In short, the government was recruiting our youngest generations at our local schools for a war that seemed like it would never end.
For example, I once hired a student as a babysitter and it turned out she had been recruited to the Army at the age of 16 and was now in her 20s. And, she had also tried to recruit my eldest into the Army while she babysat him.
While patriotism includes service, I think we all agree as adults that there’s a place and a time for that. Our job as civilians and as parents is to protect our children and their childhood, and not to drag them into a war that had no political end in sight.
I feel like there was great disregard for our youngest generations by not addressing diplomacy, de-escalation and peace talks when addressing the topic of war to them as children, post-9/11. And, if not already in place, this should be a school requirement to include to our history curriculums that address war to children, especially as we begin a new historical chapter with the Afghanistan exit of our American troops.