Stephanie Leung Runners Up Essay (2013)

Why and How Would You Keep The Memory of 9/11 Alive in the UK?

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Runners Up

Stephanie  Leung (14 years old)
Wycombe Abbey School (Buckinghamshire)

Dear Mr Cameron,

I am writing to propose to you some ideas I have about keeping the memory of 9/11 alive in the UK. I believe that it is very important that 9/11 is not forgotten, and I hope that sometime in the near future I will see a number of these implemented or, at least, something done to make sure the
catastrophic events of 9/11 remains in people’s heart forever. 

One may wonder why a terrorist attack in America, on the other side of the globe, has anything to do with us – no, it has everything to do with us. We all remember that fateful night, when we had our eyes glued to the television set while the twin towers lit up in a billion shades of crimson and
crashed down to the ground, a pile of scrap metal and rubble. I was only three then, but I remember sitting with my parents on the couch witnessing the attack on live television, only I thought that it was all a movie. I asked my mom, “Why would the evil man want to kill so many people?” My mom hesitated, and then replied, “Not evil, but misguided. There is bad in everyone; it’s just that some people succumb to it” Just like my mom, we tend to try and focus on the  positive side of life; we like to have a happy ending and prioritize giving hope to the sufferers. We don’t like to hang on too much to the past, especially if the past is especially horrible as 9/11 was. I don’t think that putting these sad events behind you is necessarily a bad thing, but I believe that we should always keep these sad events in the back of your mind as a warning and as a
reminder of the reality of life. 

My point is, only people who were alive and witnessed the attacks in 2001 will have any memory of the attacks themselves. Next year the new pupils coming into secondary school will not have been alive when 9/11 occurred, nor the pupils coming into secondary school in all the years to come. Like we must all remember the Holocaust, 9/11 must be remembered as well. One of the purposes of remembrance is to make sure that such terrible events as such do not happen again; therefore by making sure the memory of 9/11 is kept alive, extremist terrorist will be warned to think again about the devastating consequences of their actions. Everyone will also be ready should something like 9/11 occur again.

Here I arrive at my first proposal: children should be educated about the 9/11 attacks during secondary school. At the moment, the events of
9/11 are not taught thoroughly to schoolchildren, if at all. Many students are unclear or confused about what really happened that day. I think that one of the main reasons this is the case is because teachers find it hard to get hold of viable resources for teaching, made hard by the sensitivity of the topic and the absence of a standardized teaching method. This is why the story behind 9/11 should become part of the national curriculum, and should be taught from a variety of different points of view including that of the terrorists. It should not be biased or become some form of brainwashing that the government uses. Pupils should have a proper understanding of what happened, and should be able to assess for themselves what they feel about 9/11. Not only will the future generation now know in detail about this terrible attack, but the pupils will gain invaluable skills while studying the 9/11 attacks as well. Learning about sensitive events such as 9/11 will mean that pupils are able to empathise with others and step into their shoes, which is a crucial skill needed in order to understand other cultures and celebrate our differences. Pupils become open-minded and knowledgeable about the world around them, not just at home or in their neighbourhood, but in the country and abroad. Often pupils go to school and learn things that they feel have no relevance to their own lives, but learning about 9/11 is very different. Terrorism is an issue that concerns all of us, and is a pressing issue that we should all have the opportunity to learn about. 

Remembering 9/11 also means that the victims and family members affected by the attack have somebody to tell their story to. Telling their story
to others may or may not help them, but it lets them know that people are here to support them and lets them know that people want to help them. Children grew up without their parents. Wives became widows, an empty spot next to them as they lay in bed. Babies died before they had even had a chance to live. If we do not preserve the memory of 9/11, 9/11 might as well not have happened. 

My second proposal is to make sure that the anniversary of 9/11 is kept in the future. Although in the past few years there have been remembrance ceremonies for the victims of 9/11 on this day, I think that the public should be more involved. The exact time of the minute’s silence should be known by everyone and ideally, should be kept by everyone who can. As I understand Prime Minister, you have dutifully attended such remembrance ceremonies for the past few years and have been setting a good example for the public. I urge you to continue doing this and publicly encourage more people to think about 9/11 on the day of its anniversary and include the victims and their families in their prayers. Some more events could also be organised on the anniversary, involving the whole family. We could have a school quiz competition
about 9/11, or a family fun run. Such family events could be an incentive for people to come with their family members and learn more about 9/11 whilst bonding with the rest of the family. 

My third proposal is to build more 9/11 memorials in the UK. The memorial garden near the US embassy in Grosvenor Square is not in a very public place and not many people know about its existence, let alone where it is. I think that we could perhaps place symbolic statues or monuments in places such as Hyde Park. We should make these monuments interactive; for example we could build a maze in the shape of the numbers 9/11 and put informative boards near it so that people can read and learn about 9/11. A competition could be organised to find the best designs for each monument, open to both professional architects and designers, and the general public. 

This year is the 12th anniversary of 9/11. When we watched the plane crash into the Pentagon in a column of black smoke, or watched the two planes crash into the twin towers seventeen minutes after the other, we thought that the world will never be the same again. This was true for many people directly affected by the attacks, but after a few months the rest of us bowed our heads down and continued with our daily lives. Much has changed since 9/11, but now the date 9/11 doesn’t seem to have so much of an impact on people as it did immediately after the attack, especially to those born after the attacks. This cannot happen – everyone should be educated about 9/11 and be aware of its on-going effects of our own lives now, and the lives of those directly affected by 9/11.

I hope that you will take my propositions into account and think about implementing some of them.

Yours sincerely,

Stephanie Leung

Stephanie Leung