Our parents had Vietnam, our grandparents WWII. What will our kids say we had? 9/11? War on Terror? They’ll likely call it whatever we refer to it as but even that has become a blur. We entered into Afghanistan under the assumption that we would find “Weapons of Mass Destruction” or at least that’s what the media told us the government believed. Whether they truly ever believed that may remain up to debate for years to come. However, looking back now at what happened in New York City, D.C. , and a small town in Pennsylvania 10 years ago, I am sure everyone reading this can remember the day vividly. Whether you were in 6th grade like us seniors or even 3rd grade like the freshmen now entering college, 9/11 is a day that undoubtedly changed our lives forever.
My mom happens to be the kind that hordes everything my older sister and I created, including ashtrays made of clay dug up from the creek down the end of our street. She saved every letter I wrote to her, every nonsensical poem, every article, and many of my school papers. One of those stashed papers happens to be one I submitted on September 11th, 2002: exactly one year after 9/11 when I was in 7th grade. We were assigned to simply write about how we felt about the event, describing any changes we had seen or felt. Even my 12-year-old, choker-necklace-wearing-self could feel the change that took place in our country as I wrote with my gel pen, “I think that before September 11th, 2001 most people thought that we lived in a well protected country whose biggest problem was over weight people. Now we’ve learned that’s not how things are at all.”
Despite my sincere misspellings and awkward use of possessive pronouns, I had a point. However, I continued on to say that I thought it made the people in our country cherish each day more writing, “We’ve realized we take our days for granted. Now people don’t just wave a hurried good bye in the morning. They take the extra 2 minutes to hug and kiss everyone off.” Is that still true though? Ten years later, after invasions to Iraq and Afghanistan; after the capture and murder of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, have we learned that lesson I claimed we had 10 years ago? To take each day as a blessing and live it like it’s the last?
Only each individual person can answer that, of course. However, it worries me to think that perhaps the generation most affected by this has already lost sight of the only positive thing we could struggle to take from this event. Where will that leave our children? Or closer and more prevalent still, where does that leave the children who are 13-years-old right now? I just wonder if they feel as safe as we did at their age before September 11th? And before us, did our parents feel secure and safe before Vietnam leading them to be less affected or shocked by the tragedy on Septmeber 11th, , 2001?They must have been slightly less blown away than we all were, their perceptions of reality slightly closer to actuality than ours were, right? So, this leads me into my rhetorical question for you all: Does it take a catastrophic event; close enough to home in each individual’s lifetime for them to fully grasp the reality of our situation in the world? For them to realize through experience, not history class, that we don’t actually live in a protected, sealed up bubble?
These questions are not easily answered and I am not claiming to have even the slightest idea as to what the answers are. However, these are the questions I wonder as I look back in disbelief to what happened 10 years ago. I wonder how much it truly changed us, our news every minute via smartphone, social media obsessed generation. There’s no way I can think of to measure that change. I only hope that it did, in fact, change us all, but for the better. I hope it made us more aware of the dark truth in the world and permanently removed an ignorant blindfold from our faces.
In turn, I hope this leads us to continue to be an innovative generation, constantly finding improvements for safety and security. I hope we always strive to seek the truth and uncover secrets of the government, media, military, or any group or person for that matter. I hope we enter into new situations with open minds and compassionate hearts, understanding how blessed and lucky we are to live in a country as free as ours. I hope we can remember how grateful we are that this type of event doesn’t happen every year, month, week, or day like how similar events take place in other less fortunate nations. I hope we all remain curious, competitive, and driven in a way that leads us to not only a better nation, but a better world. And most importantly, I hope we can remember what the 12-year-old -me recently reminded us of 10 years later: That no day should be taken for granted.
Pictures by Aly Silver