Where were you on September 11th?
I have asked that question of others and have been asked that countless times in the past 15 years. Every year we are reminded of the attack on our country. Every year we are drawn to seeing images and footage of the smoking Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania. Every year we tell our personal stories that fit into the tragic historical event that we call “9/11.”
The 9/11 Generation
15 years later, I’ve pondered how my generation came to maturity during wartime, soon after September 11th, 2001. We are similar to those who were impacted by President Kennedy’s assassination and those who were alive during Pearl Harbor. A significant, traumatizing historical event happened to our country while we watched, powerless. I call us the 9/11 Generation.
Through the eyes of a 14-year-old
I was 14 years old and a freshman in high school. What is surreal to me is that freshmen in high school today were not yet alive. They were born into a post-9/11 world. Even my sister, who 4 years old at the time, has no recollection of the day. They don’t know that we didn’t always have to take off our shoes at airport security checkpoints. Full-body scanners are the norm. And they never had the joy of watching planes lift off at the airport – without needing to be a passenger on one.
History vs. real-life experience
Freshmen today are learning about 9/11 from textbooks. High schoolers in my day watched the event happen on TV and some, in person. Of course, this chasm is no fault of the current generation. None of us have power over when we come into this world. But I just wonder what it is like for 9/11 to be an historical event instead of an historical experience. I wasn’t in New York City, or Washington, D.C., or Pennsylvania. I don’t know anyone who died. Yet, the terrorist attacks still have a deep impact on me. That day is as clear in my mind today as it was on the first anniversary. I still feel emotional thinking about what happened. I saw people jumping from the Twin Towers, and then I saw them fall in real time.
Mourning our losses, celebrating our strengths
Today we not only mourn our country’s losses, but we also celebrate our strength as a nation. I am so proud of my generation, the 9/11 Generation, because many heeded the call to duty. My husband and his twin brother are two of those people. They began Junior ROTC one year after 9/11. A decade later, they finally had their turn to serve in combat.
Hope for the future
My hope for the future is that the current generation heeds that same call. I don’t want another 9/11, although it’s not outside the realm of possibility. I believe that part of the solution in preventing another attack is to educate our young people. We have an obligation to teach them, with great solemnity, the tragedy that was 9/11. If we truly impress this importance on them, then they will be more vigilant. They will have a greater understanding of freedom and the cost of it. They won’t call for “safe spaces” from words; instead, they will go forth to serve our nation in heroic, selfless ways.
Vigilance and courage
It’s part of our responsibility, my fellow patriot peers. We grew up in wartime. Some of you fought in that war, and many of you have scars that will never completely go away. You are the ones who have borne the moral burden of our war on terror, though it truly belongs to all Americans. Now we must teach the next generation to not be complacent and instead, to be always vigilant, steadfast, and courageous. Will you commit to protect the foundation of America?
Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. ~President George W. Bush
With love for our country, military, first responders, and fellow Americans,