I turned 17, on August 29th 2001, and as I’m sure you’re aware two weeks later, was September 11th. So, me and those people of my graduating class, are now arriving at the part of our lives where half of our lives have been in the “pre-9/11 world” and half have been in the “post-9/11 world.”
Every single year, for the past 16, I’ve seen this day used as a day for people to tell their stories about where they were, and to remember those who were lost, and those are important things, but I really felt like this year, instead of me writing some more of the same, I would write something a little more focused on what this particular amount of time having passed means to me personally.
As I mentioned, I turned 17 about 2 weeks before September 11th, and whether or not I realistically thought about enlisting when the time came is something I honestly cannot remember. But the world changed in the largest way imaginable, and I was smart enough to know that it would mean some kind of military response, and I was also smart enough to know that it would mean people about a year older than me, and likely people my age, who would be involved.
September 11th came, at a time when I was starting to consider life after high school, and when things like Selective Service registration were looming. Ultimately the impact on me was pretty minimal, I didn’t end up serving, and there was no draft, of the people I know who did serve in Iraq or Afghanistan, none of them were killed or physically disabled, and so it ended up being a looming dread that lead to nothing for me. I’m thankful for that, and I’m really thankful for the people whom I know who fought coming back (admittedly, I think I met most of them after their service) and so I’m grateful that they came home because I was able to meet them.
Every generation seems to have their ‘Earth shattering,’ defining moment. The generation before us had “AIDS,” before that was either Rosa Parks arrest, or Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, before that was Pearl Harbor. We have 9/11. It’s not melodramatic to say that this is on par with the importance, of those other historical events, or with the shift in society that they brought on.
This brings me to my second big point that I want to mention. I was born in 1984, so I grew up with the ‘newness’ of the AIDS crisis, where adults were still very much dealing with it regularly, but kids were joking and not understanding because they’d been born after, or had been too young when it had began, to know life before it. I remember thinking how weird it was that my parents, and everyone older than me basically had been living in this “pre-AIDS” world, and how strange it must have been for them to all of a sudden be thrust into a world where this was a real concern, almost overnight. I imagine, these things are, and have been going through the minds of kids for the last ten years at least. It seems crazy to me that in about a year we’ll have adults eligible and likely fighting in Afghanistan, who were not born yet when the war started less than a month after 9/11.
I know, that I probably haven’t said anything particularly coherent, or made any real points, but it’s stuff that goes through my mind, and I thought today might be a good day to share it.