Tom Youngblood was 15 months old on Sept. 11, 2001, so he doesn’t have any real-time memories of those fateful events. But when he visited the Ground Zero memorial a few years ago, the tragedy resonated all the same.
“People feel they have a little part of it — some connection,” the New Roads School sophomore said. “Everybody was really impacted by it. It was a really solemn, sad day.”
Seemingly everyone can recall where they were the day planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City — that is, unless they were either not alive yet or, like Youngblood, too young to remember the devastating terrorist attack. Indeed, the vast majority of students currently in grades K-12 had not yet been born, and those who had were mostly toddlers.
Still, the events of 9/11 have become so embedded in modern society — in political campaigns, international affairs, airport policies, privacy debates and beyond — that youngsters have had little choice but to grapple with the issues that led to and stem from the attack.
They, too, are reflecting on the wide-ranging consequences of Sept. 11 as people across the nation commemorate the 15th anniversary.
The Santa Monica Fire Department will hold its annual ceremonies Sunday at 6:45 a.m. Sunday at all four of its stations to remember the thousands of people who died in the attacks, including more than 400 firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel.
Members of the public are invited to attend the concurrent 20-minute ceremonies at 1444 7th St., 222 Hollister Ave., 1302 19th St., and 2450 Ashland Ave.
Just outside the local fire department’s administrative offices is a Ground Zero artifact, which is positioned on the second floor of the City public safety facility at 333 Olympic Drive. The artifact can be viewed by the public during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The events of 9/11 stir up strong emotions in Indigo Bain, also a student at New Roads School, even though he wasn’t alive yet. He was born in Connecticut in 2002 but was raised in New York before moving to Southern California last year, so he grew up around older children who experienced the trauma firsthand and heard their chilling stories.
His worldview, he said, has been shaped in part by Sept. 11. He said the attack and other high-profile instances of violence, including numerous mass shootings in the U.S., have desensitized him to a large degree.
“It’s difficult to imagine a world where we don’t have airport security checks,” he said. “I’m probably more numb than anyone who would’ve been born before all of this.”
Youngblood, who attended Calvary Christian School in Pacific Palisades before starting at New Roads, said 9/11 remains a watershed moment for how government officials and citizens think about security.
“We realized how big this world is,” he said. “It’s not just us. It opened our eyes up to what we, as a country, really need to do to protect ourselves. … It affected everybody’s mindset.”
Meanwhile, the anniversary of Sept. 11 offers Americans an opportunity to remember the victims of the attacks. Bain said people must not make uninformed generalizations as they attempt, once again, to make sense of the violence.
“Even though it was people of Islamic faith [who were responsible], that doesn’t mean all people of that faith are terrorists,” he said. “Just because one person who associates with a group of people does something bad, that doesn’t mean everyone in that group is bad.”
BY JEFFREY I. GOODMAN