“Americans Swore They Would ‘Never Forget 9-11.’ But College Students Asked Why It Happened Have No Idea.”

So reads the caption on a YouTube video put out by the Young America’s Foundation. The interviewer questioned students on the campus of George Mason University.

This is strange on two levels.

First, notice that there is no good reason for the “But” in the headline. Americans swore they would never forget 9-11. That doesn’t mean they know why it happened. My father’s and mother’s generation didn’t have to swear they would never forget Pearl Harbor. But I’m positive that they never forgot it. That doesn’t mean they know why Pearl Harbor happened either. Growing up and hearing about Pearl Harbor, I don’t ever remember anyone around me ever saying why it happened. It took a lot of reading of history in my late teens for me to know about FDR’s embargo on steel and oil and his freezing of Japanese assets. I bet my mother and father, who were not dumb people and were not particularly ignorant, went to their graves not knowing FDR’s role.

Back to 9/11. The questions (1) do you remember 9/11? and (2) do you know why 9/11 happened? are two different questions. The interviewer in the 1.5 minute video doesn’t ask if people remembered 9/11. She asks if they know why it happened. If they had forgotten 9/11, you would expect that some of them, when asked, would say something like “Huh? What was 9/11?” None of the students answered that way. All seemed to remember 9/11.

That’s the first way in which the caption is strange.

The second strange thing about the caption is that although some of the students didn’t seem to understand why 9/11 happened, three had some understanding. That’s not many, but the video shows interviews with only 10 students. So three out of 10 did understand. Is that a lower percent than the percent of Americans in general? I don’t know.

Fortunately, and I admit to a pleasant surprise here, the YAF write-up that goes with the video explains why the terrorists attacked. The write-up says:

The terrorist group al-Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim fundamentalist organization led from Afghanistan by the now-deceased Osama bin Laden, coordinated by later Guantanamo Bay detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, carried out the 9-11 attack in ‘retribution’ for U.S. foreign involvement in the Middle East.

That’s a lot better than George W. Bush’s explanation they attacked our freedom.