Internet, films influence a new generation’s views of 9/11


Sep. 11—What do young adults, who don’t remember much or weren’t even born yet, know and think about 9/11?

Lacking personal experience, for the most part, they have had to rely on other sources for information.

Several USC Aiken students recently discussed their opinions about the terrorist attacks, which took place 20 years ago, and what has influenced their points of view the most.

It wasn’t necessarily what they learned in school.

“I was in kindergarten when it happened,” said Nathan Garner, a 25-year-old senior political science major who is an Aiken resident. “It was naptime. I remember looking at my teacher because the principal was making some kind of announcement over the intercom. The teacher yelled at me because I was packing up, thinking naptime was over. But I don’t remember anything specifically beyond that about that day.”

Between then and college, Garner said the only exposure he received to 9/11 in school was in a paragraph or two in history books.

“If they had a picture, it was picture of (President) George W. Bush on top of the rubble (with a bullhorn), speaking to the firefighters at ground zero,” Garner recalled.

At USC Aiken last year, Garner took a psychology and international relations class during which terrorism was discussed.

“We talked about why terrorists commit terrorist attacks, but we didn’t talk about 9/11 specifically,” he said.

A documentary about 9/11 that focused on firefighters is what made the biggest impact on Garner, who watched it multiple times as a child. The first time he saw it was with his parents.

The film left a lasting impression.

“The bravery of the first responders and all those who helped out really showed,” Garner said. “I’d love to be able to show that kind of compassion and have that duty to serve. I am just in awe of what they were able to attempt to do.”

Prior to college, Nick Fanchette, a 21-year-old senior political science major from Walterboro, learned about 9/11 in school in several ways.

He said they included a brief explanation of the terrorist attacks when he was “probably in the fourth grade” and a 9/11 “memorial story every year or so” on Channel One News programs created especially for students when he was older.

“In high school, I had a world geography course, and we briefly touched on it,” Fanchette recalled. “It was mostly framed as the inciting incident for military actions in the Middle East.”

While he has been studying political science at USC Aiken, “we’ve talked about 9/11 a little bit,” Fanchette said.

On the internet, he’s watched “Loose Change,” a series of films about 9/11 conspiracy theories, and Lindsay Ellis’ YouTube video essays about 9/11 and its depiction in pop culture.

“I understand that it’s still a very raw, emotional moment for a lot of Americans,” Fanchette said. “It’s kind of the first time that hostile military action or violence of that scale was inflicted upon all of us (in America). But I think mostly it’s biggest legacy is how it’s been used as a political and rhetorical tool. As a disciple of political science, I’m interested primarily in how rhetoric shapes public perception.”

Courtney Hicks, a 23-year-old history major and Aiken resident, grew up in a military family. Her father was in the U.S. Army and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We moved around a lot,” Hicks said.

In the schools she attended in Virginia, there wasn’t a lot of exposure to 9/11. But in Texas, where Hicks’ family lived near Fort Hood, a documentary about 9/11 was shown every year to students.

“It was absolutely heartbreaking for all of us,” she said. “Kids would be crying, me included.”

After her family relocated to South Carolina, the terrorist attacks “never really were mentioned at all (in school),” Hicks recalled.

At USC Aiken, 9/11 has been touched on “here and there (in her courses),” she said. “It (mostly) was a political topic of conversation rather than historical.”

Hicks described the terrorist attacks as “really” tragic.

“There is speculation about conspiracies, but I think the bottom line is that a lot of people lost their lives,” she said. “I think people should pay respect to that and leave the speculation and the conspiracies to another conversation.”

Ariel Capers, a 21-year-old senior from Columbia, is a political science major minoring in criminal justice.

“In elementary school on 9/11 every year, the teachers would talk about it and we would watch videos,” she said. “The older I got, the more that started to be phased out.”

When Capers was in high school, the American history taught there didn’t include 9/11, and she hasn’t studied the terrorist attacks in any of her courses at USC Aiken.

But Capers did view 9/11-related videos on YouTube when she was younger.

“I specifically remember watching a video about children talking about their parents who had died in 9/11 and how much they missed them,” she said.

Even though Capers doesn’t have any personal memories of the terrorist attacks, “I still feel a sense of sadness because people died, Americans died,” she said. “They woke and went into work, and then they lost their lives. Hopefully, nothing like that ever happens again, but I know America has more precautions in place. It definitely made a difference in how America goes about (maintaining) protection and security.”

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