Students reflect on Sept. 11

September 03, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

Three North High students have changed since Sept. 11, 2001.

Their youthful idealism is intact. They believe that America is a special place, a country unique because of the diversity of its people.

But their idealism is not blind. Their eyes are open. Some of the country's post 9-11 coming together now seems to be coming apart.

Laura Douglas was in her anatomy and physiology class last Sept. 11 when she learned of the horrors. Her thoughts went to her sister, a student at New York University. "I was terrified," she says.


"My emotions ran really high. I was kirking out," says Boh Nichols, who was in French class when terrorists rammed the twin towers of the World Trade Center with highjacked airliners. He knew his dad was in Washington, D.C. "I didn't see him that morning," he remembers.

The first version of events Whytne Brooks heard in physics class was that the World Trade Center had collapsed. She didn't know why Washington County schools would be closing, but she was excited thinking, "We're getting out of school."

By the time she got to her next class where a radio was broadcasting reports, people were panic stricken. Whytne wondered how these events would change things.

"With all the scary stuff that's happened, people don't feel as secure," Boh says. For a couple of weeks after 9-11, "my eyes were always at the sky."

Boh's brother, Andrew, 19, enlisted in the army right after his 2001 graduation. "I worry about him all the time," Boh says.

After her initial terror, Laura was angry. "I wanted to fight somebody."

But as time has passed, she finds it hard to rationalize war in Afghanistan when she thinks of all the people there who don't deserve our vengeance.

"I feel like since 9-11 the United States has been united in a way that it couldn't have been any other way. It's actually been a good thing for us in that way," Laura says. "But at the same time," she adds, "it's been tearing our country apart in wanting to go to war and we really can't make decisions on who we're fighting."

Whytne also has seen positives and negatives from 9-11 and its aftermath.

There is a greater sense of brotherhood and patriotism, she says.

But there is a counter effect.

"We're not personally in conflict with other 16-year-olds. I have a lot of Muslim friends," she says.

A cookie cutter view doesn't work, she adds.

"The whole point of America is for us to be a melting pot," Laura says.

On her way to work she passes a house flying a Confederate flag. "People are missing the whole point."

Some of the good feelings have worn off, Whytne says.

Boh also has seen 9-11's afterglow dim. On the interstate a car flying American flags will cut you off and the driver give you the finger, he says.

Has Sept. 11 changed these young adults or their plans for the future?

Whytne, who intends to go to law school, doesn't know if she'll consider applying to Columbia University in New York, as she had in the past.

Boh's plans haven't changed. He doesn't plan to enter military service.

"I'm a 'make love not war' kind of guy," he says with a smile.

As he has since he was a little kid, he still wants to be a doctor. He has faith in the future. "I know wherever I go, God's gonna be there to protect me."

"We're a special country to have so many races and ethnicities," Whytne says. Sept. 11 could be a catalyst for brotherhood and kinship, she says.

Intolerance has been a problem in our country before. Instead of learning about differences, people were ignored and put down, she says, citing the Columbine school shootings as an example.

She extends her philosophy to the broader world.

"Everybody doesn't have to be the same or look the same."

Learning tolerance is a good resolution, she says.

The change in the world has sparked a change in Laura.

"I think I'm going to be more up front about the way I feel about certain things."

Now she looks at and questions government actions. If you just stand by, you have no control. By speaking up, by protesting policies you don't support, you have a "better chance of making a change," she says.

"I second that," says Boh.

"I concur," says Whytne.

Laura Douglas, 17, is president and Boh Nichols, 17, is treasurer of North Hagerstown High School's Student Government Association. Sixteen-year-old Whytne Brooks is senior class president.

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