UF freshman Talia Cadet was sitting in seventh-grade history class at her Long Island middle school when she first learned of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Though she was young, Cadet understood the gravity of the situation and feared for her mother, who worked at a New York City hospital.
"Everyone was terrified," she said. "We were in shock."
For Cadet, whose family was unharmed, the anniversary of Sept. 11 sparks the memory of a terror-filled day in her past. But for students who weren't directly affected by the attacks or were too young to understand the devastation, the sixth anniversary came and went with less fanfare than Tuesday afternoon's thunderstorm.
"I think it's possible for people our age, because we were so young, to remove ourselves from it and see it as an event in history," said Taryn Devereux, a sophomore religion major.
Devereux added that she was surprised that the anniversary wasn't mentioned in her Introduction to Islam class earlier that day.
Eating lunch in a grassy spot on the Plaza of the Americas with sophomore Allison Hoyle, Devereux hardly noticed the row of miniature American flags that lined the plaza's sidewalk. Erected by Gators for Rudy Giuliani, a newly formed student group supporting Giuliani's nomination as a presidential candidate, each of the nearly 300 flags represented ten lives lost on Sept. 11.
The flags were part of a nonpolitical gesture to commemorate the victims, said Lance Burbank, a member of Gators for Rudy. Burbank said they held the remembrance because he didn't think anyone else was doing anything.
"I think those who were a little bit older [at the time of Sept. 11] have a better grasp on the ramifications of it and view the world differently because of it," Burbank said.
Tatiana Galante, a freshman nursing major who was in sixth grade at the time of the attacks, said she is surprised at how little her life is affected by it now.
"Other than airport security, as far as my world goes, it hasn't really affected me," she said.
Students often feel uncomfortable talking about Sept. 11 because many are still trying to make sense of it, said Matthew Jacobs, an assistant professor of U.S. history and world history.
"It's complicated, and there is still this ambiguity and unexplored territory," Jacobs said. "There are no rules whether to commemorate it or not, so they are still trying to navigate how to do that."
Some students went out of their way to pay tribute.
Sophomore Mala Simhan wore a T-shirt with the logo of the New York City Fire Department on Tuesday.
"I think some people have moved on, which is good because it means we've healed," she said. "But at least today you should wear it on your sleeve."
Cadet said she thinks people don't understand what the anniversary means to her and other students who were directly affected by it.
"I can't be mad or disappointed," she said. "I think I just feel it more than most people today."