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“What shapes us?”: A Previously Answered Question

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Needless to say, I, like many people around the world, am stressed about the situation in Ukraine at the moment. Will the United States get involved? What will the repercussions be if they do or do not? How will their involvement affect the result of the war? How will this shape our generation?

As a history major, I immediately looked to the past for answers. Each generation has had an event that majorly shaped the way they react to the world. My oldest grandparent was born in the middle of the Great Depression in 1933. He grew up in a time of uncertainty and stress, both economic and domestic. The main historical event that helped get the United States out of the Great Depression was their involvement in World War II. My youngest grandparent was born in 1942, just over a year after Pearl Harbor and a few years before D-Day. All of my grandparents were born into a world either suffering or at war. Because of this, they have always placed  a huge emphasis on family values and the importance of religion. People turn to any form of religion in times that they need comfort and a hope that a higher power will eventually make things right. After World War II, not much time passed until the United States was involved in yet another war abroad. My grandfather fought in the Korean War when he was practically a child and does not discuss it much. His refusal to talk about his time in the war is not unique to him; many veterans chose to not disclose what happened when they were in combat. Some things are better left unsaid.

Not long after the Korean War, the Vietnam War began. This was around the time that my parents and their siblings were born. Raised by a generation who only knew their country at war, my parents were faced with the same destiny as their parents. My parents were less than ten years old at the end of the Vietnam War and might not remember it much, but those who raised them did. The priest that married my grandparents, my parents, and baptized all the children in my family fought in Vietnam. He, like my grandfather, does not discuss his time at war. 

Years passed and there were several events that impacted my parent’s generation while they were young adults: the Columbine shooting, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Bosnian Genocide, and the Waco Seige just to name a few. If anything, these events made people flee from religion and question what sort of God would allow these atrocities to occur? I cannot blame them. 

I was born in July of 2001, only months before the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. I was only an infant on 9/11 and do not remember it happening, but I grew up with the repercussions. I remember my parents telling me that before I was born, people never had to take off their shoes in the airport; you could bring full water bottles on airplanes and there was significantly less security at airports. People were not always on edge. America post 9/11 was a country grieving for those lost and trying to cope with the trauma. I wish that I could have known what it was to be an American before 9/11. 

As far as my childhood, the first American disaster that I can vaguely remember was the Great Recession of 2008. I do not remember many details about it, but I do recall how my elementary school class size got smaller and smaller. I went to a private school and when parents lost their jobs due to the recession, they were not able to send their children there any longer. In 2010, I was in the fourth grade and we had thirteen students in the entire grade. 

School shootings were the events that most shaped my generation. I was in fifth grade when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred in Newtown, CT, less than an hour from my elementary school. I remember being in lockdown at my after school program, not understanding why we could not play outside on that sunny day. After Sandy Hook, and the multiple shootings that followed, I became desensitized to school shootings. I was angry and distraught, but the shock was gone. 

The Covid-19 pandemic would be the next most significant event in my timeline. We all know what happened, and is still happening, so I don’t think I have to go into detail on this one. 

I will be twenty-one years old this July and have already lived through one of the largest terrorist attacks to ever hit the United States, an economic recession, countless school shootings, a global pandemic, a domestic terrorist attack on our nation’s capitol, and threats of nuclear war. How much more can we take? 

History Major Spanish Minor Class of 2024 at The Catholic University of America. From Connecticut
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