None of my friends or relatives were directly affected by the attacks on September 11, 2001. I was just starting the fourth grade in North Carolina and, while I knew my parents were clearly worried about something, I didn’t really understand what they were talking about with each other. The attacks didn’t change the everyday life of fourth grader living hundreds of miles away from Lower Manhattan or the Pentagon. And, to be honest, most nine year old boys see images similar to collapsing buildings and crashing planes everyday in video games or television.
What I’m trying to get at is that I grew up not knowing any sort of pre-9/11 world. Kids my age are the first of a generation that has lived the majority of their lives after September 11, 2001. And the first of us are already approaching adulthood.
Yesterday, I took the time to listen to recently released audio recordings of the phone calls between officials in the air as the attacks were happening. It was eerie to hear people like air traffic controllers ask if the situation playing out, which they’re only hearing about over the phone or radio or on their computer monitors, was a drill or, in fact, “real world.” I’m sure many of the people watching what was happening that day shared similar disbelief. But, for the people who were born after the attacks or were too young to process what happened, there isn’t any other “real world.”
In her own reflections yesterday, Kathleen wrote that her generation was “[robbed] of an innocence and prosperity that would have certainly been challenged anyway.” Despite being only a few years older, I don’t think people my age ever really had that innocence. We’re the first generation in quite a while to grow up in an America that isn’t immune from the horrors of war playing out on her own soil…and I’m not quite sure how to take that.