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The Hilltop


Letter From The Editor: Reflecting on 9/11 and the 9-1-1 Emergency In My Country.

By Paul Holston, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note: Along with being a current Howard University undergraduate student, Paul Holston is a military veteran who served five years in the United States Army as a public affairs specialist and photojournalist. Holston transferred to Howard University in Fall 2014 to complete his B.A. in Journalism. There are an estimated 300-500 current military veteran students at Howard University.

Fifteen years ago, the United States faced an event that would forever change America’s perspective on terrorism.

The date, September 11, 2001, was a day that many have proclaimed “one of the worst attacks on U.S. soil since the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.”

According to HISTORY:

“On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.”

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It was estimated that over 3,000 people were killed during the attacks. America didn’t know how to react, as for the first time in seemingly a long time, we felt vulnerable to terrorism.

Each year after Sept. 11, also known as 9/11, we remember each of the 3,000+ victims of this atrocity. We are told time and time again to “Never Forget,” and that traumatic event is indeed a day that will never be forgotten.

On this 15th anniversary of 9/11, I have to admit that I didn’t really reflect as much as I should have, even with being a 5-year Army veteran who served a combat tour in 2011 in Baghdad, Iraq. On Sunday, I was simply a college student trying to catch up on my homework, trying to maintain the week ahead with Howard University’s student newspaper, The Hilltop, and at the same time, trying to continue to live. Live and breathe. Live, breathe and be Black.

The next day, as I woke up to turn on the television and do the normal catching up of the latest news and happening, I saw two things: I saw countless remembrance pieces and media packages about Sept. 11, including many memorials, flowers and red, white and blue flags waving through the wind, as many fellow Americans were remembering the fallen souls of the 9/11 attack. And then I saw that there were people hitting the emergency button.

What do I mean by this? Well let me start with the lead of this recent New York Times article:

“Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who touched off a national debate when he chose not to stand during the playing of the national anthem before games, has emboldened a handful of other players to follow suit.”

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What I saw that morning was the stance of many people who looked just like me, hit the 9-1-1 emergency buttons in their own way.

The NYT article continues, saying:

“In a protest against racial injustice, four Miami Dolphins players knelt on Sunday during the anthem, and a member of the Kansas City Chiefs raised his fist before a separate game, saying later that he had been acting in solidarity with Kaepernick. Two players from the New England Patriots and three from the Tennessee Titans also raised their fists.”

In my views, this is not something to be ignored. And we know all too well that before Kaepernick began his protest, people have been protesting for many years prior. But something about having those players use their platforms to bring awareness was something to respect, even when many feel that these athletes are disrespecting military service members and veterans.

People forget that the first amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.”

As a military veteran, I support their decisions in doing so, as with anyone who believes in fighting against oppression of any kind…even if it means going against the status quo (see #VeteransForKaepernick for more).

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According to, we live in a country where it is three times more likely that African-Americans are killed by police than whites. Already in 2016, according to The Guardian, over 750 people have been killed by police in the U.S., with that number to continue to rise throughout the duration of the year.

I say this to say that terrorism during Sept. 11 was traumatic. One of most traumatic events in our history. I didn’t realize the level of impact when it happened. I was only 10-years-old. Now being 25, in 2016, the 9-1-1 emergency of the domestic terrorism in my country is just as traumatic, if not more.

No, we should not ever compare…and I do not desire to. There’s countless other tragic events and happenings that we should “Never Forget” not just here in the U.S., but around the world. But before we fully embrace the statement “Never Forget,” we should not forget about the domestic terrorism that is occurring within this country every single day.

There’s an 9-1-1 emergency in America…and we as Americans should truly answer the call.


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