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The Impact of 9/11 and COVID on Gen Z

by Angelica Niedermeyer, Staff Writer and Daughter of PAPD Officer Alfonse Niedermeyer (1961-2001)

19 years ago, the majority of today’s college students were young children or infants. Some were not even born yet. All were unaware of the sudden dangers brought upon them. 

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda, an Islamic terrorist group,  hijacked three airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. killing over 2,600 people. 

9/11 altered so many aspects of life to this day. The physical and mental states of Americans, the economy, the ways of air travel, the media and the War on Terror have been strongly impacted. 

“They are the post-9/11 generation, raised in an era of economic and national insecurity,” Susanna Schrobsdorff, the Chief Strategic Partnerships Editor and columnist at TIME said in this article. “They’ve never known a time when terrorism and school shootings weren’t the norm. They grew up watching their parents weather a severe recession, and, perhaps most important, they hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.” 

Just like the aftermath of 9/11, the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has left the world wondering when things will start up again— when will life go back to normal? However, no one knows when the uncertainty and confusion will end. 

After 9/11, Everyday activities were halted as people started to think differently. Fear and anxiety festered in their heads as no one wanted to fly on airplanes or go to NYC again.

“[Gen Z was] born right after 9/11—into a world of fear, uncertainty, cultural and religious bigotry, us-vs.-them mentality, and potential world war,” Liz Stillwaggon Swan, PhD of Psychology Today, said in this article. “The airports they know are not the airports I remember from pre-9/11 days when we left our shoes on, and family members could accompany us right up to the gate to wave bon voyage.”

Today, these same children who were born into this chaos filled world are now college students living and learning in a pandemic. Finding safety in an uncertain time is something this generation grew up doing. Feelings of anxiety and depression went up as much as 50 percent for those in surrounding areas of the 9/11 attacks, and people suffered some type of emotional or mental awareness and damage, according to the City of New York Government Website

“Gen Z individuals differ from millennials mainly because of the uncertain times in which they grew up,” according to an article published by Western Governors University. “Growing up during the Great Recession and post 9/11 has made them mature for their age, and very focused and driven toward specific goals. They tend to be less focused on social justice compared to millennials, and less concerned about the future of society, and more about their own futures. However, as this generation ages, these things are subject to change.”

New Yorkers and the rest of the world honor those lost due to the tragic terrorist attacks on 9/11 in a unique way. Every year the city has the “Tribute in Light,” where 88 vertical searchlights display two columns of light to represent the Twin Towers, and offer remembrance of the attacks. 

Due to COVID-19, the Tribute in Light was almost cancelled due to the risk of spreading the disease while the lights take about 30 maintenance workers to set it up. While this was sad news to those who lost loved ones, it also became a political statement because of the Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter movements. 

Those who advocated against having the lights this year found it difficult to honor those lost. Those who supported the lights argued they honored specific people’s efforts to save lives rather than the institutions themselves.

Despite the controversy, the charity Tunnel to Towers raised enough money to make sure to have the lights this year.  “The 9/11 ‘Tribute in Light’ will always be a beacon of the resilience and hope of this great city,” Mike Bloomberg, Former New York City Mayor, said over Twitter.

Angelica is a junior at Manhattan College and the Events Coordinator at HerCampus Manhattan. She is studying communication with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in French. Angelica is also an Assistant Sports Editor for the Quadrangle newspaper.
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