9/11 memorial service

Attendees gather on Old Main lawn for a memorial service in remembrance of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. The memorial was hosted by Penn State College Republicans and also honored the 13 American service members who died during the evacuation of Afghanistan.

It has been 20 years since the world stood still following, in my opinion, the worst terrorist attack in human history. Almost 3,000 people were killed and thousands more injured as friends and family were left to mourn in pain.

As the towers fell, the Pentagon hit and a forced crash in rural Pennsylvania, millions around the globe watched the news in horror, wondering what had happened and what was to come next.

Those families and friends had to pick up the pieces of destruction and move forward from losing their loved ones — an unimaginable burden placed on far too many.

Police, firefighters and paramedics selflessly gave their lives running in to protect and save people. Those heroes' names should never be forgotten.

The footage of the attacks is still hard to watch. Although we have all probably seen videos of the events over time, it always feels just as shocking watching it now as it did our first time.

Those who survived still to this day suffer with different health conditions, ranging from respiratory issues to post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s hard to comprehend what they all have had to go through.

Thousands of men and women were soon sent overseas, fighting wars in countries many Americans likely couldn't point out on a map.

These brave men and women experienced the horrors of war and have come home scarred and mistreated by their government. Many of them gave the ultimate sacrifice and never returned home.

Not just those present at Ground Zero have had to deal with the aftermath, though. Two decades later, so much has changed for every American domestically.

The United States established the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath, which oversees controversial organizations such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Transportation Security Administration.

ICE has faced criticism for wrongful detentions, sexual assaults and arresting American citizens mistakenly. So much for being the land of accepting those in need and being a home of opportunity.

Although waiting longer in line at the airport for security is annoying, being racially profiled for wearing a turban or being pulled from the main line into a back room for an extra pat down due to the color of your skin has caused unparalleled stress and extreme pain for many marginalized Americans.

While we can be thankful that no large scale foreign terrorist attack has occured in the country since then, it's clear that the DHS, TSA and ICE have overstepped human rights in the name of security. That should never be an acceptable tradeoff.

The attack also changed everything for everyone around the globe.

The United States embarked on “wars against terror” across the globe, with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, followed by subsequent anti-terrorism operations and wars in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and others.

These wars have resulted in hundreds of thousands dead, civilian casualties, war crimes and prison abuse, the worsening of the image of the United States abroad, the decreasing of our standing with allies, and the emboldening of even more terrorist attacks.

What have we as a people learned since then? Maybe we’re less trustworthy and maybe we fear the outside world more.

That day millions of Americans became united as one — regardless of their beliefs — unified by the common home we all share.

That unity, which feels like such a distant thought, is unlikely to happen again in this harsh political climate.

All current undergraduate Penn State students were too young to remember or not born yet and are a part of the “post 9/11 generation.” We never knew what the world was like before the attacks. And although we never experienced the terror of that day, we are still affected by the aftermath of it.

We live in the shadow of the events and are still responsible for picking up some of the pieces and damage that it caused. Twenty years later, Sept. 11 should not only never be forgotten, but the consequences and aftermath should be known to each American.

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