There has been much reflecting and revisiting tales of “where were you on 9/11″ and investigating how this infamous event impacted lives all across the nation. We’ve heard from those who lost people to this day, and while the airways have been justly saturated with stories, we at State of the Re:Union thought it might be interesting to hear how the “Aftermath Generation” of 9/11 has been formed by the day. Our SOTRU intern Brit McGinnis helps us with that insight.
Where were you when what it meant to be an American changed?
I was at school, in class. Elk Meadow Elementary School, Mrs. Krakow’s fifth grade class in Bend, Oregon. I remember all of us being told that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and that people could be hurt.
The news didn’t compute at first. I didn’t understand why everyone was so upset— my little-kid sense of distance between the East Coast and the West Coast made the Twin Towers feel so far away. I wanted to ask, “Why is everyone so sad?” Other children were tense, as if waiting for some boogeyman terrorist to suddenly appear in the hallway. I excused myself to the bathroom, noticing that the halls seemed much more quiet than before. My footsteps echoed more loudly.
I watched the news all the time that week. I wanted to understand what this meant for my country. Before that day, I had only seen the scrolling bars showing updated news once on CNN, but now they were everywhere. For the first time, I was afraid. Not of terrorists attacking our country, but of how the country as a whole was going to react to what was happening. I suddenly became afraid of all the grownups around me becoming impetuous and doing something stupid.
We need to think, I kept thinking. We can’t just react. For the first time, I understood what it meant to feel helpless as a citizen.
I started reading the newspaper more and more, a reaction prompted by this event. I was young and I couldn’t yet vote. But I wanted to know what was going on, and I felt that I had to know as soon as possible. I read about the different countries, what the “big people in charge” were doing. I had to know, because I couldn’t be ignorant anymore.
I’ve found that this was a common reaction among my cohort. No matter if it was a lot or a little, people my age were awakened to the events of the world. We wanted to know what Al-Qaeda was. Where were Iraq and Iran? What did the president want to do now, and why? Opinions were suddenly spouting from everyone about the actions of the country. We kids learned to listen.
As my peers and I grew older, we became infatuated with the media. We wanted to make YouTube videos and Facebook pages — proof that we were still here, that we were still alive and kicking after all the tragedy that had occurred in our short lives. Programs like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart exploded in popularity, due to the fact that we still desperately wanted to know what was going on in our world.
This awakening of a generation, though it was an effect of a horrendous tragedy, has made this coming generation likely one of the most intellectually formidable generations in America’s history. We wanted to know everything that happened due to the tragedy we barely understood at the time. We were too young to understand, but not too young to learn.
The tragic events of 9/11 made community-minded citizens out of an entire generation of young people, because it made us want to learn about the workings of our country and the world. Who can truly, effectively terrorize a nation of knowledge-seeking people?
There are pivotal moments in our lives, be they big, small, tragic or ordinary, affecting changes in the way that we do things. Are you a participant and voice in the Aftermath Generation? If so, do you think 9/11 has forged the way you operate? Are its effects truly defining your generation? If so, what is the one thing that changed in your/your cohorts actions or thinking? Did it make you more curious about religion or culture, suspicious of strangers? Perhaps it made you more impetuous, callous, thoughtful or forgiving? Think about it, write it down and send it to us. We would love to learn more about the future of the men and women in our communities.