It’s been 18 years.
It’s been 1,725 days.
Nearly an entire generation. The rise of a child from birth to high school graduation. A total of three presidencies, four presidential elections, and the dawn of a fifth.
It’s been 2,977 people who died that day. It’s been 2,353 people who died in Operation Enduring Freedom. It’s been 4,432 people who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It’s been more than 51,000 people who have dealt with illnesses related to that day.
It’s been 18 years.
No matter how you define or count the days, today we pause to remember the worst act of terrorism in American history. On September 11, 2001, we were all affected and forever changed by the events of this day and those that have taken place since then.
I was a naive 21-year-old senior on September 11, 2001. I remember with vivid detail where I was, what I did, and how it affected me for weeks if not years later. I still remember the first time getting on a plane after September 11, 2001, years after the attacks, and being anxious about flying.
It’s easy for me to think that this day marked a drastic change in the course of human events. We have never been the same people we were on September 10, 2001 as we have been since September 11, 2001. We are different and forever altered by the images of seeing innocence destroyed and lives taken. We have experienced more fear, anxiety, and separation from one another in the days sense. It is not as a result of September 11, but it is the outflow of being worried that anything could happen again, because it happen before. It causes us to separate ourselves from one another and to be anxious of another person.
Many have written how September 11 was a generational-defining moment. We think of these moments as what defines a generation and, often, events we can all remember where we were when we learned the news. Pearl Harbor was such for the Greatest Generation. The Kennedy Assassination was that for Baby Boomers. September 11 was my generation’s defining moment.
My generation, individuals who straddle the fence between Generation X and Generation Y, have experienced much in the way of change, pain, and violence. For all the good that we have experienced in our 36-42 years of life – such as the Technological Revolution – we have experienced some of nation’s most painful moments in our formative moments.
We’ve seen the Challenger disaster. We’ve seen the first Iraq War. We’ve seen the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. We’ve seen Columbine, Virginia Tech, and many others. We’ve seen September 11. We’ve seen the Great Recession. And we witnessed it all in our living rooms, in coffee shops, and in our day-to-day lives through the advent of television and social media.
As a result, my generation is, perhaps, the last to know and experience a life without war, strife, and an era of peace. We have become a bridge to a rising generation that knows nothing but war and threat.
That knowledge affects you as a parent. My son is 6. He will never know the childhood I experienced. The childhood of being able to be gone for hours without anyone being worried about what might happen. He’ll never know walking without fear or anxiety.
What he knows are things that are common place for him that were not when I was his age. Lockdown drills are as common for him as fire drills were for me.
The world is a lot different since September 11, 2001. I pray that it was not, but it is.
On this day of remembrance and reflection, my prayer is that we seek to leave the world a better place over these next 18 years. My prayer is that the next generation of children will know something other than fear and anxiety. I pray that may know the peace that we all felt on September 10, 2001 that has been forever lost since that day 18 years ago.