Pictured above, from left, High Point University freshmen Ashley Banegas, Janae Dillman, Geoff Erickson and Jack Jenkins reflect on the meaning of September 11th, 2001, at HPU’s Memorial Garden, which is located on campus. Photo by LAURA GREENE | HPE
This story was written by Paul Johnson, High Point Enterprise reporter, and appeared in the High Point Enterprise on Sept. 11, 2017.
HIGH POINT — Freshman college student Geoff Erickson’s earliest memory of Sept. 11, 2001, focuses on his father, a businessman with ties to New York City who was calling dozens of associates to see if they were alive.
For fellow High Point University freshman Jack Jenkins, his earliest memory of the terrible events on the day 16 years ago was hearing his parents talk about his father, a commercial pilot who flew into Boston Logan International Airport on Sept. 10, 2001. By luck his father had a layover — two jets that flew out of Boston the next day were commandeered by hijackers and slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York.
Freshman Ashley Banegas was 2 when the terrorist attacks shattered the nation. She doesn’t remember that day. But as she grew, she became friends with a girl her age in Greensboro.
As Banegas got to know the girl and her family, she realized her friend’s mother was gone. Her friend Alexandria’s mother was Sandy Bradshaw, a flight attendant who died when one of the four planes hijacked on Sept. 11 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
For freshman Janae Dillman, who grew up in High Point, her early memories of Sept. 11 are vague. But as she entered elementary school and began to learn about the day, she would come home and ask her mom. Her mother then would tell her about what her family experienced — the shock, the sadness — in the moment.
The four HPU freshmen represent the first classes of college students who were newborns or toddlers when Sept. 11 transformed the country. The traumatic events infuse some of their earliest memories or experiences with loved ones who processed the attack in real-time 16 years ago.
Erickson, an 18-year-old freshman from Concord, New Hampshire, said he remembers as a small child that his father was at home from work early on a weekday. His father, who worked for the investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, spent Sept. 11, 2001, making phone calls to locate friends working in the World Trade Center.
“He knew about 45 people,” Erickson told The High Point Enterprise. “I don’t remember watching it on TV. But I remember my father being at home that day.”
Jenkins, an 18-year-old from North Hampton, New Hampshire, said as a child he remembers his loved ones reacting because two of the hijacked jets flew out of Boston. His father had flown a commercial plane with passengers into the city the previous day.
“My dad, my grandpa and my uncle were all airline pilots based out of Boston. My dad knew personally the pilots who were in those planes,” Jenkins said.
For Banegas, an 18-year-old graduate of Western Guilford High School and a Say Yes to Education scholar at HPU, early memories as a child revolve around her friend Alexandria Bradshaw.
“I was close friends with her. And every time at that time of year, it was sad because she didn’t get to know her mom,” Banegas said.
Dillman, a 17-year-old graduate of Southwest Guilford High School and also a Say Yes scholar, said when she started learning about 9/11 in school, she would come home and ask her mom about what happened.
“She would go into more detail about it,” she said.
The four students say their generation won’t neglect to recognize 9/11 as they grow older, that it will become a marker for them like Dec. 7, 1941, has been for previous generations.
“I just continue to pray for those who lost so much that day,” Dillman said.
Banegas said her age colors her perception of Sept. 11 and the anniversary. But her generation still embraces the sorrow that infused the nation when they were learning to crawl, walk and speak.
“Personally, I don’t know how they felt because I was so young that day,” Banegas said.
But Banegas said growing up with Bradshaw’s daughter gives her an insight.
“I try to remember how it might have felt losing someone you love,” she said.