Where Were You?

Author: Hailey Oppenlander


“Where were you on 9/11?” 

Eighteen years have passed, yet still, so many Americans remember exactly what they were doing when they heard that the Twin Towers had been hit. 

But for most of us students at Notre Dame, we don't remember where we were on 9/11. I wasn't even two years old at the time, and some of Notre Dame's newest undergraduates weren't born yet. I have no recollection of the fear, the disbelief, the pain that the nation felt that day. All I remember is that each year on September 11th, we had a special prayer on morning announcements at school, and everyone was a little more somber than usual.

Even though I can't answer where I was on 9/11 those eighteen years ago, I can tell you where I was on 9/11 this year: at the Grotto, turning to prayer to make sense of the reality of our world. Many students, myself included, escape to the serenity of the Grotto when our personal worries and problems seem too great to bear on our own. But tonight, I came to the Grotto not because I was stressed about an exam or because I needed some time with God, but because there is strength in coming together to remember the past and pray for a better future.

Fr. Malloy presided over the prayer service and shared his personal experience of 9/11 on campus when 10,000 individuals gathered together on South Quad to celebrate Mass. What else to do in the midst of a crisis but turn to faith? Joined by the Muslim Student Association as well as EMTs, Fr. Malloy watched as the entire Notre Dame community responded to the horrific attack by coming together in love. During the Sign of Peace, students locked arms as they do during the alma mater, leaning on each other for support and comfort, and counted our blessings for the people around us. Reaching out to one another in love is such a small action, such a short portion of the prayer service – and yet we have hope that these small actions will make their way to the rest of the world. We all recited the Our Father alongside a Jewish mourning prayer and a selection from the Bhagavad Gita, showing that all religious traditions can find comfort together.

Even though my peers and I don't personally remember the events of 9/11, we will not forget the lives lost, and we will keep alive the hope for a peaceful future where all peoples can live together in harmony.