By Ezeoma Obioha, 17, Beverly Hills High School
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The terrorist attacks were the most hideous things that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. I just can’t understand why some of my classmates think it’s a big joke.

On September 11, my classmates seemed to be shocked and angered by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. I thought that they might create school clubs to contribute to the relief fund or donate their own money to help the victims of the plane crashes. Maybe they would start reading up on the war. Maybe they’d discuss how to prevent terrorism. Boy, was I wrong.

A few days before Halloween, one of my classmates interrupted the teacher’s lecture to announce to the class that he was going to dress up as the "anthrax fairy" for Halloween. He chuckled, describing the tutu he was going to wear as he sprinkled fake anthrax on people. I heard laughter from my classmates. The teacher told him it wasn’t funny and continued his lecture on Supreme Court cases.

On Halloween, a Persian classmate of mine showed up dressed as Bin Laden with a towel wrapped around his head and a beard on his face. Draped in a tan cloth, he spent the day throwing a fake stick of dynamite at people, saying, "I’m going to blow you up!" His friends laughed and said "That’s the best costume, I wish I had thought of that!"

In another one of my classes there has been a sick game going on between a Persian classmate and a black classmate. I’ll call them Amir and Joe. Every day Amir calls Joe a "slave" and Joe calls Amir a "F%$^%*& terrorist!" Joe and his friends erupt into laughter every time they do this even when teachers and administrators are in the same room. One day Joe put an envelope full of lemon Kool-Aid into his friend’s bag and addressed it to make it look like it was from Amir. When the friend opened the letter they both laughed hysterically. When the teacher got mad, Joe sat back in his chair and retorted in a threatening tone, "Don’t come at me like that because you don’t know me! What I’m doing isn’t directed towards the whole class, it’s just between me, my friend and Amir." The teacher said no more about it.

Recently I saw Joe, Amir and some other friends hanging out. Joe called Amir a terrorist and started throwing crumpled notebook papers at him. They were all laughing, even Amir. When I asked Amir if it bothered him, he just shrugged.

A bad joke in art class

In my third period art class, another classmate tried to make fun of the terrorist attacks. Our teacher had just instructed us to design a cityscape using rectangles and squares to learn about one-point perspective. One of my classmates started laughing at my sketch. I found nothing funny about the two plain rectangles I had drawn on my sketchpad. He proclaimed that I was drawing the World Trade Center and said "All you need now is to draw a plane flying into the Twin Towers!!" He studied my face eagerly, waiting for me to join him in the laughter but all he got was a blank stare. He returned to his desk for a while but came back with a grin spanning from ear to ear saying, "You should also add fire and smoke rising and peoples’ bodies flying out of the buildings."

When I asked him about this later he said that it was my own fault for trying to draw the World Trade Center. I said that I wasn’t drawing it. He said "Yes, you were. All I said was that you should draw a plane flying into it."

Later I overheard a couple of students discussing some video game in which the objective was to fly a plane into a building, just like the terrorists did. "So cool," said one. "I gotta get that game," said the other. These comments reminded me of when we were watching the news on September 11 and someone in the back of my art class shouted "Cool, it looks just like a movie," as Flight 175 crashed into the second tower.

I’m disappointed that other students just don’t seem to care. In government class we talk about this topic almost every day. Some girls say, "Why do we have to talk about this every day? Isn’t it kind of off-topic?" But I think it’s important. So many people have been affected by this. People have lost their jobs and the economy is in a tailspin—we should be talking about it.

Why do people react this way? Are they desensitized? How can they think it’s funny when they see real people dying—not actors pretending to die in a movie. How can they not care? I’m appalled by teens’ attitudes.

In one year these students are going to be able to vote. If they can’t make a good judgement about terrorism, how are they going to make a good judgement about who should be president and lead the nation?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m worried about what our generation has in store for the world. I wish I could advise teens on how to act. I would tell them to consider how offensive their comments are to people who actually care about the terrorist attacks. Imagine that all the people who died came back to life and are in the same room with you. Imagine that you are in New York at ground zero, surrounded by the ruins of the World Trade Center. Is that joke still funny?