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Diocese of Wilmington high school seniors did not experience 9/11, but appreciate its gravity

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A color guard was at the Sussex Central-Salesianum game on Sept. 10 as the teams held a moment of silence for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

Across the country last week, Americans marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Millions recalled that sunny Tuesday morning when tragedy struck in New York City, Washington, D.C., and rural western Pennsylvania.

But the youngest people who can recall that day are now adults, and today’s high school students were not born when it occurred. A few shared with The Dialog how they view 9/11.

“It’s definitely an historical event for me,” Salesianum School senior James Conley said. “We weren’t directly affected by it. We didn’t lose anybody in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. But it’s definitely a day that changed the world, no doubt about it.”

Conley, 17, said his parents told him they remember exactly what they were doing when they heard of the attacks. His mother, he said, still gets emotional about it.

James Conley, left, and Dominic Amato, seniors at Salesianum School. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

“It’s still like a scarring, if that makes sense,” he said.

His classmate, Dominic Amato, said he recently watched a documentary on Netflix called “Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror,” which explained circumstances leading up to that day and how it changed the country.

“Looking at it through a critical lens, you can see it was a turning point. It’s pre-9/11 and post 9/11. In a lot of the ways that the government works, a lot of the ways that day-to-day life works. For my parents, the way they explained it to me, the way they functioned,” he said.

“The one thing that (his parents) always have told me is that the scariest thing is that even though they were in Delaware — my dad was at a golf tournament and my mom was with her parents — they didn’t even feel safe in their own homes.”

Padua senior Maura Sanders, 18, was born in China a year after the terrorist attacks. She came to the United States when she was 10 months old and appreciates the opportunities she has in this country. It is hard for her to understand why others do not share that view.

“The first time I heard about it, it really did not make sense. Why would some people be so evil and attack this beautiful, amazing country?” she said.

Padua senior Maura Sanders. Photo courtesy of Padua Academy

She did some research while in eighth grade to try to get a grasp of why the terrorists would carry out the hijackings. Some people, she said, are jealous of “what we have here and how blessed we are in America. I feel like we underestimate that here sometimes, and some people just wish to have that.”

Amato, 17, said he doesn’t feel a personal connection to 9/11, “but I wouldn’t say I’m detached from it.” He was at Abessinio Stadium on Sept. 10 for Salesianum’s football game against Sussex Central, and beforehand there was a short ceremony during which the principal, Oblate Father Chris Beretta, asked the crowd to remember those who had died. Specifically, he recalled John J. Murray, a 1986 alumnus, who worked for a securities firm at the World Trade Center.

“When you see stuff about it, or there are ceremonies, I still get those chills. I still feel like it does affect me and it did affect me,” Amato said.

Conley said students talked about the ceremony. “A lot of people lost their lives that day, and family members are still mourning their losses.”

Sanders said although she wasn’t alive that day, sometimes she feels like she was.

“With the documentaries and the news, I feel like I was there,” she said. “When they do the memorial service every year, I always pray for all the families and take time to reflect on how lucky we are.”