The morning of September 11, 2001, is one of Aidan Thayer’s first memories.He was just 3 years old when the terrorist group al-Qaida launched a series of four coordinated attacks against the United States using four hijacked passenger airplanes. Two of the planes crashed into the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center, while a third was flown into the Pentagon, the Department of Defense headquarters, near Washington. Passengers on the fourth plane, likely bound for the White House, retook control of the aircraft and crashed it into a field in Pennsylvania.Thayer’s mother picked him up from preschool in the middle of the day, frantic.She drove to the family home in Springfield, Virginia, a 15-minute drive from the Pentagon. She set Thayer in front of the TV while she desperately attempted to call his father, Bradley Thayer, who was working at the Pentagon that day but evacuated successfully.“There was this one shaky cam, grainy footage, of the second plane hitting the second tower … constantly on the news,” said the younger Thayer, now 22. “I just remembered that clip looping over and over again, of just seeing the second plane, not very far away, hitting the tower.”That day, 2,977 people died, as did all 19 of the al-Qaida hijackers, in the single deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.Nineteen years later, Thayer is a fifth-year undergraduate student at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, where he triple-majors in physics, mathematics and German. Thayer, despite his near-photographic memory, can only recall some scenes from the day of the attacks.For older Americans, in contrast, 9/11 remains a vivid memory. Ten years later, 97% of Americans 8 or older at the time could remember exactly where they were when they heard the news, according to a FILE – A member of the U.S. Army Old Guard stands on the grounds of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial before a ceremony in observance of the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the Pentagon in Washington, Sept. 11, 2019.That’s to be expected, according to research on collective memory, the pools of memory that can define social groups like generations.In a 2016 study, Howard Schuman and Amy Corning, researchers with the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor’s Institute for Social Research, compared years of survey data on the Vietnam War and 9/11 FILE – Firefighters work beneath the destroyed mullions, the vertical struts which once faced the soaring outer walls of the World Trade Center towers, after a terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York, Sept. 11, 2001.“For me, the only part that I saw was the aftermath of widespread, nationwide  Islamophobia that I’ve seen carried out my entire life. That’s been a part of my world since then,” said Permann, who graduated from California State University, Northridge last year, and has been working as a sign language interpreter at Purple Communications since.Anti-Islamic hate crimes in the U.S. surged in the weeks after 9/11, according to a FILE – Jackson Tucker walks through the field of 3,000 U.S. flags placed in memory of the lives lost in the September 11, 2001 attacks, at a park in Winnetka, Illinois, Sept. 10, 2016.The surge in Islamophobia, combined with nearly 20 years of American-led conflicts abroad, is why Thayer said he thought it was “incredibly important” for the memory of 9/11 to be passed down to successive generations.“It’s not to memorialize it,” he said. “To me, you remember it [9/11] because it gives context to everything else that happened.”After 9/11, the U.S. launched an international military campaign, known as the war on terror, targeting extremist Islamic groups throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia.By the end of this fiscal year on September 30, the U.S. will have spent over $6.4 trillion on its post-9/11 military involvement abroad, according to a joint 2019 study from Brown University and Boston University. The study is part of a larger project. Other studies in the collaboration estimated that the conflicts have killed over 800,000 people and displaced 37 million more.“ I feel like we also need to learn more about the aftermath of it (9/11),” said Fahimul.“We often just say, ‘Oh, remember the 3,000 lives lost’ … but we forget about the … children and families that were killed as a result of the war that came after, all the people that are displaced and, also, people in the United States that were affected by the racism and the hate.”For Taylor Bair, 21, from North Carolina, this extended death toll is part of the significance of 9/11. One of her friends lost her mother that day. Bair’s grandmother, a flight attendant, was hours from boarding a flight to Washington when the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center complex.“How [emotionally] close you were to this event impacts how you see it,” said Blair, a senior at Appalachian State University in North Carolina studying psychology and special education.“But even though it’s easy to look at something you weren’t connected to and ask why does it matter now, it seriously impacted the lives of thousands of people,” she added. “The people that did die in [9/11], they’re not necessarily people who were well-known, but they had lives and they had family.”For now, the commemorations continue, despite the pandemic. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City will reopen September 11 for families of those affected, and for the general public on the next day. Earlier in the week, officials near the site of the crash in Pennsylvania broke ground on a new part of a trail that connects the country’s three main 9/11 memorials.

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