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Children of 9/11 remember

By By Brian M. Cuaron - BCUARON@VICAD.COM
Sept. 10, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.

University of Houston-Victoria sophomore James Menefee

WHAT HAS CHANGED FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

More restrictions on flights.

Lessons in history and theology classes about the terrorist attacks.

James Menefee was in grade school when he got the news: Terrorists attacked the United States, killing thousands.

The 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Houston-Victoria was a 9-year-old fourth-grader at the time. He had just eaten lunch.

School officials took him and others to a room.

At home, he saw coverage of the aftermath on CNN.

But it didn't make much sense.

"I was just confused," Menefee said.

The children of 9/11, those who grew up with its legacy, have different views of what it means. Those views tended to change with how old they were when it occurred.

Marian Howard, 16, said the issue seemed more important in middle school. The St. Joseph High School athlete and student ambassador said the attacks were stressed in theology and history classes.

That isn't to say the attacks never come up in the high-school students' personal time.

Ashley Mutchler, a 16-year-old cheerleader, said she and colleagues talked about it after Osama bin Laden was killed in May.

The terrorist behind the 9/11 attacks has also found a place in the lives of high schoolers via YouTube.

"There are so many YouTube parodies of Osama bin Laden," said Alex Sigtenhorst, a 13-year-old freshman.

"I would know. I'm in the loop," she quipped.

On a more serious note, the students acknowledged that the legacy of the terrorist attacks shows up in their lives, at the airport and in the sky.

Ashley remembers praying when she got on a flight after the attacks happened.

Alex said she had to ship a package deemed dangerous by airport officials.

"I couldn't have a mermaid snow globe."

Asked whether the years of warfare have desensitized her generation, the student ambassador strongly shook her head.

"No," Marian responded.

She questioned whether troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were helping the people in those countries. If the United States needed to rebuild, would it want others coming in to help it rebuild, she asked.

Back in the UHV's Jaguar Hall dormitory, where he was now eating lunch, Menefee reflected on what the attacks mean today.

Menefee remembered a memorial at his high school's football game. He thought such actions showed that Americans still remember what he called a tragedy.

That wasn't so much the case at St. Joseph High School.

"It'll just be something you read about," said Marian, predicting how the future generations would think of Sept. 11.

Asked if her generation appreciated freedom, a Victoria West High School sophomore was pessimistic.

"I feel like our generation takes our freedom and what we have for granted," said Megan Willmon, 15.

"I feel like something really, really major would have to happen for us to realize as a generation that (freedom), it's not just there."

Marian said it was important for people to remember the lessons of the attacks.

Alex put that into practice, saying people could use the attacks as a reason to discriminate others. She even admired those who fought the terrorist in the flight that crashed in Shanksville, Pa., especially Todd Beamer's quote of "Let's roll."

"That's really stuck with me," Alex said.

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