A Generation Raised in the Shadow of the Towers
I was 12 years old when the planes hit the Twin Towers. I woke up, went to school and could truly say that war and politics were absent from my mind.
My friends and I did not sit around and argue about the peace talks in Israel in our free time; our roundtable discussions centered on finding a balance between Pokemon and puberty.
My father is from New York. He was a fully grown man when the four planes were hijacked; I was an awkward pre-teen from San Francisco, three thousand miles from the Towers.
He could probably write about the day much better than I ever could; it was closer to him and far more real.
Instead, I’ll write what I know; what 9/11 and its aftermath means to my generation.
At 22, I am already old enough to reminisce on the blissful ignorance of my early childhood. I’m sure anxiety and angst were always present, but when I was young, it all seemed easier.
There was true simplicity to my emotions; ice cream and bouncy balls could fix the most torturous torment and the gravest heartbreak.
But by 12, I was beginning to view myself as grown. It would be a year until I smoked marijuana or drank alcohol, but I was right on the edge of teenhood, peering into the great abyss.
I was beginning to understand how things functioned outside of myself. I could take the bus now; I could interact with the world, viewing it on my own, without my parents’ filter.
My classmates and I believed we were mature, but many of us still couldn’t watch R-rated movies.
But on September 11th and the weeks that followed, everywhere we went we saw horrors that even Hollywood would dare not depict. We were children, but that day we were just like everybody else. We did not look away.
We were just entering the world, we were just beginning to form an identity fully our own.
And right then, at the cusp of teenhood, the world changed forever.
We are a generation that has seen nothing but turmoil and horror since we’ve been old enough to contemplate the world at all. Our years of independent consciousness began with destruction, matured into relentless war, were redefined by economic collapse and were colored by natural disasters. We have never known peace; we have never met an untarnished hero.
We came of age at a time when the world was coming apart. We had our first kiss as troops arrived in Iraq. We started shaving as Katrina hit New Orleans. We went to prom as the stock market crashed.
We are a generation that is distrustful and wary. We believe in neither Them nor Us; the binary has shattered because we’ve been wronged by both sides. But that does not mean that we do not care.
Despite everything we’ve seen, a lot of us still love this country; not the gray-haired, bad-breathed brute that it has become, but what it is supposed to be. We believe in the America they taught us about in Social Studies, and we believe in ourselves.
My generation was born under fiery skies. We had our innocence stripped from us when we were still wide-eyed. We knew what the Boogieman looked like and understood that our parents were as helpless as we were to stop him.
So we decided to do something about it. Everyday we shift our existence with technology and personal action. We want peace, justice and just a little bit of unabashed, unapologetic joy.
We’re all grown up ten years later. We’re nobody’s fool: we now know that ice cream melts and bouncy balls roll away. We want an existence we’ve only read about; We want the world we never had a chance to enjoy. And we won’t settle for anything less.
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