Young And Aware: Why Millennials May Remember 9/11 Best Of All


I was studying algebra during free period when the first plane hit.

In the hallways, I heard more from friends. One of the towers at the World Trade Center in New York City had been hit by a plane.

The building was smoldering, but still intact at that moment.

I was pretty young in the early 1990s, but I could recalled what had happened years before. Terrorists had previously tried to bomb the WTC, and they had killed six people with a car bomb in the parking garage there.

I worried, "Was this an act of terrorism? Have we been attacked again?"

I tried my best to shed the thought from my mind. No, this is just an accident. Planes crash. Navigational systems fail. This can't be anything more than that.

Then, the second plane hit.

Our teachers put away their lesson plans and turned their in-classroom televisions on. We watched interviews of witnesses and expert analyses from political leaders and international dignitaries.

There was no doubt about it in anyone's mind on TV. This was terrorism.

By the end of the day, the two towers would tumble down. A third plane would hit the Pentagon in DC.

A fourth plane would crash in a field in Pennsylvania. It was another planned attack heading toward the nation's capital that was thwarted by passengers.

All planes flying across the country would be grounded, save for Air Force One, which was carrying the president.

We were attacked, plain and simple. And the nation was scared.

But, our nation has this interesting tendency. Under incredible duress, we do incredible things.

We worried, and we mourned. By the end of the day, we had grown our resolve, and we stood together.

We weren't liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans. We were Americans.

We don't have that any longer, or at the very least, it's not that apparent. Our national unity was stripped from us so quickly after 9/11 that it's hard to believe just 14 years ago, we were united behind a common cause.

A lot has changed since then, of course. That day was just 10 months after the Supreme Court had ruled to end a presidential recount. Two years later, we'd be at war in Iraq for what seemed to some to be undefined reasons.

The stock market tanked, recovered and then crashed just a few years later. Democrats retook control of Congress and the White House. Even our minimum wage, which is still considered low today by most economists, was lower.

One more important change? We Millennials grew up. And our attitudes are shaping the direction that America goes in tomorrow.

We still have division in our nation, even within our generation, about that direction.

But, we understand that we will be leaders for tomorrow. Whether we realize it or not, the events of our youth have shaped our worldview, albeit in different ways.

Some of us perceive the religion of Islam to be a threat. Others recognize that it's extremists, not the religion itself.

Some want to create a stronger presence in international affairs; others want the US to scale back.

Some want more defense spending, others see less spending to be more advantageous.

Both sides remember the events of 9/11 and cite them in their arguments.

That's something we ought to consider. What happened on 9/11 was a transformative event, and it guided our nation's path. In some ways. it still guides where we're going.

It wasn't so transformative, however, to change who we were as a people.

We'll always have unity. And we'll always have division. Neither of those are inherently good or bad, but a good dose of both is healthy for our nation's survival.

We may look at the events 14 years ago through different lenses. We may look to the future of our nation's position in the world with different ideas of what it should be.

A lot has changed since September 11. A lot more will change in the future. But ultimately, we all behave with our nation's best interests at heart.

Disagreements on what that means will forever be a part of our political discussion. But disagreements don't mean we aren't united.