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The American flag before the Sept. 11 attacks was just a star-spangled banner outside public buildings and some private homes that most people never really thought about. The red, white and blue of our flag and what these colors stood for was generally ignored by teens. But after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, does the flag somehow have more meaning to Americans than it had before?

Teens from Western New York put aside being cool and gave heartfelt responses when asked what the flag meant to them before, and what it means to them now.

"Before Tuesday, I really didn't think of the flag much. I ignored it and actually didn't like standing up to say the pledge. Now after Tuesday, I think our flag stands for our freedom and unity. While some burn it and step on it, we wave it proudly and we understand what it stands for. I think of the flag not just as a piece of cloth with stars and stripes but as a banner that unites us all."

-- Tim Schopf, 15

"I looked at our flag as a symbol of our liberty and justice. Now after September 11th's tragedy I see our flag as a source of encouragement and pride for what America may face in the future."

-- Kimberly Silla, 15

"Before it was just a symbol of all 50 United States and freedom. Now it is a shining light that will give us hope to pursue our cause against the terrorists. I am so proud to be an American!"

-- Melody Fura, 16

"Funny how it takes a world tragedy to make us proud to be Americans. The flag is now our symbol of hope and unity. Before it was just something to say the pledge to."

-- Mallory Boron, 15

"On September 11, 2001, the very meaning of our flag was assaulted in this heinous act of terrorism. But I am certain that the red, white and blue will prevail in the end by striking swiftly and decisively."

-- Chris Janik, 15

"I've always honored the flag because of what it stands for. Many people have fought throughout the years to defend the flag."

-- Matt White, 16

"This experience has made me consider freedom something that can't be taken for granted. I can appreciate human life and our freedom so much more."

-- Ryan Prendergast, Starpoint junior

"The flag was a sign of our freedom. But now it is a representative of a strong nation that demands respect."

-- Adele Beatty, 13, St. Peter's Catholic School, Lewiston.

"Two weeks ago the flag symbolized independence. Now after this horrible attack on our people and our rights, to me, the flag means unity. Unity within our country as we strive to be the best we can be, to keep our independence and freedoms that have taken us so long to attain."

-- Katlyn Gosch, 15

"The flag used to be something that I never really noticed. I didn't even pay attention to it. There were too many rules that I didn't understand. Like why couldn't it be on the ground, or in the rain, or up after dark. Now, after the crash, the flag symbolizes how different Americans are in their beliefs and values. We value liberty, freedom and human rights."

-- Theresa McNutt, 15

"Before America was shattered by the terrorist attack I saw the flag as a symbol of America, just the country. But now after the deadly destruction that took place the flag to me symbolizes freedom, life, and all of this country's history -- the wars, revolutions and advances that make the United States of America what it is today."

-- Heather Flay, 16

Jason Torreano is a junior at Starpoint High School.

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