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Norah Graham Essay

The Effect of a Tragedy

It is hard to contemplate the effect of a tragedy on one person, a family, a community, or a nation. However, it is easy to talk about how horrible it was, how sad it makes everyone, or how it will never be forgotten. The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, are an example of a tragedy in which lives are affected at each of these levels. Of course it won’t be forgotten. It will be in history books, certainly. People’s families will forever carry the weight of their lost loved ones. The country will try to implement changes to prevent such an attack from happening again. There are huge, terrible, catastrophic events that have happened all throughout history that come to mind every once in a while. We know they are fact, but they are nothing more than a lesson in a history class or a documentary on PBS for most of us. They aren’t forgotten, but are they really remembered?

On the great scale of history, the 15 years that have passed since 9/11 do not take up any space at all. People alive today have a clear memory of this day, and there are specific accounts from survivors. As a community, a nation, and a people, we need to uncover the moments that haven’t been erased from living memory. We must examine the effects of this event on specific lives, and imagine that we are in their bodies for a few moments. If we do so, we might understand a small fraction of the pain one event can cause.

For most of the survivors and witnesses, the most important thing was contact. They had to rip their bodies away from the sight, where they stood watching the smoke and fire in disbelief, and try to find a way to contact their families and friends. This one small detail is seen in countless accounts, and if we can understand that the first thought people had was their loved ones after being attacked—after seeing horrific and terrifying things, we can imagine what it is like for the families who didn’t get that comforting message.

Displayed in the spot where the towers used to be are memorials that commemorate the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Etched into the stone are the names of the victims. The inside of the foundation is now a fountain, and the area around holds rows of evergreen trees. For some people, this is an artistic symbol of the tragedy. But for the community of New York, that site will always bear a painful significance. They can trace the names of friends, coworkers, family, and servicemen and hopefully feel some sort of comfort. Sixteen of those names had ties to Michigan, which in of itself is a community loss.

On September 11th, 2001, America experienced the biggest loss of life from a foreign attack in its history. Over 3,000 people died, which is already quite a large number. But then, you consider the amount of lives that were actually affected. People who survived carry the burden in their mind; people who were injured suffer a physical condition as a reminder; the families of those 3,000 people who died will always have a hole in their lives that will never be filled. People all over the country and the world have had their lives influenced by one event. Some Americans use this event as fuel for their anger against certain groups of people. Others acknowledge that in the world we live in today, attacks of this nature are sadly not that uncommon.

As a people, we should never lose hope for a better future. We should never accept tragedies as a part of this world, and never turn against our fellow humans. We can never let tragedies become commonplace or forgettable. However, we have to move forward, heal, and work towards making the world a safer place to call home.

Founder Patrick Anderson with Second Place Essay Winner Norah Graham