The 9/11 Generation

I was a high school freshman in my second period Social Science class, doodling when I should have been taking notes.  A teacher from another class briskly walked in.  She was flustered and didn’t know how to explain what was going on.  “Hijacking, some kind of hijacking.  Turn on the TV.”

In that moment, we became metaphorical zombies.  Walking from class to class–more like TV to TV.  We were inundated by news coverage all day.  Towers burning, Pentagon burning, crashing metal, smoking fields.  I remember a girl outside the theater, crumpled to the floor, crying, crying.  I remember my third period choir teacher yelling and swearing as towers collapsed.

I was old enough to know that this was something huge.  Something horrible.  Something irreversible and history-altering.  Old enough to see the fear on my teachers’ faces.  Old enough to know that thousands of people were dead or soon doomed to die.

I was yet still too young to know what to do with this information, where to put it in my small experience of the world.  Not old enough to drive, much less old enough to know how to cope with something of this magnitude and significance.

I got home that day, and the house was dark and empty.  I called my mom, an FBI agent, eager to hear her voice and know that she was okay.  What I didn’t know is that she had been stationed at O’Hare International Airport that day to deal with whatever might happen there.  She didn’t have cell phone service, and the land line number I had didn’t work.  By the time she got a hold of me, I was a panicked mess.  She said, “I’m going to be working late for a while.  Go next door and ask them if you can eat dinner with them tonight.”

I could not comprehend having to sit down and do the Algebra homework assigned in my first period class.

We were a generation who came of age during a time of chaos, a time of war, a time of fear.  My generation, the Latest Greatest Generation, is represented by the troops stationed in the Middle East, fighting for our freedom and our country.  Fighting so that I can sit here in my room and type these sentences without fear for my personal safety.  The loss of life on 9/11/01 was horrendous.  But I feel the need to remind people that the death isn’t over.  Members of my generation are in combat, coming home with injuries, visible or not, or not coming home at all.  Let’s keep them all in our prayers today.

Witnessing such destruction is overwhelming.  It’s devastating to the soul.  And one of the most frustrating things to me is not knowing how I can help.  So today, as small as it seems, I vow to create something.  Dwelling on the past only brings sadness.  We’ve had sadness for ten years now.  Starting today, I’m doing my part to create.  To bring a little light into this dark age.

What are you going to do to commemorate today?

What is your 9/11 story?


6 thoughts on “The 9/11 Generation

  1. Allison, great post. I’m commemorating by reading the experiences of others and the opinions of others. Today is a day that I’m grateful for the internet because it’s been such a great tool for sharing our stories, our pictures and our thoughts on a seminal moment in history. My favorite discovery today was this poem by Wislawa Szymborska:

    They jumped from the burning floors—
    one, two, a few more,
    higher, lower.

    The photograph halted them in life,
    and now keeps them
    above the earth toward the earth.

    Each is still complete,
    with a particular face
    and blood well hidden.

    There’s enough time
    for hair to come loose,
    for keys and coins
    to fall from pockets.

    They’re still within the air’s reach,
    within the compass of places
    that have just now opened.

    I can do only two things for them—
    describe this flight
    and not add a last line.

    My 9/11 experience was that of feeling numb and helpless. But as every year passes, I worry a little bit more that our reaction to a terrible loss in our own country was so strong but that our empathy for the 925 million people that are hungry, right now, in developing countries is less strong. And like you say, we’ve forgotten that our friends and family are in combat, still. I love the idea of ending sadness today and doing something to create. For me, remembering how helpless I felt on 9/11/01 is a reminder that there is death and tragedy every day and there IS something I can do about it, as long as I have the willingness to step out and find the way.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Wow, what a poem…thank you so much for sharing it. And I’m so glad you brought up the surplus of senseless NON-American deaths that happen each and every day. Important to realize that others in the world experience more death and devastation in their everyday lives than we could even fathom. Important to act on that knowledge, too. If we let it (and I think we should), 9/11 can help us put those international crises into a more understandable perspective and help us realize a sense of urgency.

      Thanks again, Cori! Great thoughts.

  2. i can’t imagine what it must’ve actually felt like experiencing it all firsthand. my recollection of 9/11 is simply seeing it on television, hearing it on the news and overhearing conversations about it everywhere. but i was (still am) a million miles away from the real horrors, the true danger… so i can’t possibly picture the feeling. don’t know if i’ll possibly understand the fear, the confusion, the sadness, that pain…

    but my prayers and thoughts and best wishes are with every american.
    to everyone who survived through this, know that you each came out stronger.

    • I agree–If we feel such sadness and heartache over the situation without being there or even having had known anyone involved, I can’t even imagine how much that pain is amplified for those who were there and had loved ones involved.

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Thanks for telling your side of the story. I’m 42 and am deeply saddened by the changes brought on by 9/11. I also understand that change and sin and rebirth are huge parts of our lives. Thanks for “doing your part.”

    P.S. I found you through Keith’s blog.

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