The Post-September 11 Generation: Too Young to Remember, But Not to Think About | New

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For those who were alive on September 11, 2001, the memory of that day is often still vivid and moving, the images of the Twin Towers falling forever etched in people’s minds.

For a whole generation of young people, however, September 11 is not a memory at all. It’s part of the story.

As we celebrate two decades since the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, teens are coming of age in a world reshaped by an event that happened before they were born.

“My parents saw thousands of people die in a surprise attack. They lost a lot,” said Cole Sturino, a high school student from Palo Alto High School.

“For us, that’s how it went.”

To explore what it’s been like to grow up in a post 9/11 world, this news organization spoke with five local teenagers about their perspective on the 9/11 attacks and the impact on their lives. Here are their stories.

When a senior asks 17-year-old Zack Silver how old he is, the follow-up question is often the same: “Oh, so you don’t remember 9/11?” “

Born in 2004, Paly’s eldest said he didn’t know the first time he learned of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It has always been a part of life.

“The obvious emotion that we haven’t felt is the shock,” Silver said. “For us, it was always something that happened, not something that happened.”

Although he was not alive at the time, Silver said he knew that this day played a significant role in changing the current situation in the United States and the world at large.

“Even if we weren’t there for that, you can absolutely see the effects,” said Silver.

This ranges from going through airport security to growing up watching the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To many of his generation, Silver said the Middle East has always been known as the place where the terrorists who perpetrated 9/11 came from. It’s sad, Silver said, because only a small number of people carried out the attacks and there is so much more in the area.

“Since then the United States has in many ways been the police of the world and I’m not sure that’s a good thing,” he said.

Zainab Ali was born just one month after September 11. His parents had recently left Pakistan for the United States in search of employment opportunities. Her mother has since told Ali about the fear she felt as a Muslim in the days following the attack.

“I remember my mother telling me that she was afraid to give birth in the hospital,” Ali said. “She was afraid that the doctors would treat her differently because we are Muslims.”

Although Ali said that luckily this had not happened, she grew up seeing the impact of 9/11 on how Muslims are viewed in the United States. When someone brings up terrorism, they frequently link them to Islam, she said.

“As a Muslim student, every year I would kind of dread 9/11,” she said. “People look at you whenever the subject of Muslims or Islam is brought up.”

His teachers were generally careful to make it clear that Muslims are not to blame, Ali said, adding that over the years people have become more understanding.

Now preparing to start her sophomore year at Foothill College, Ali is the co-chair of the Muslim Students’ Association on campus and speaks at this year’s Multi-Faith Peace Picnic on September 11 in Palo Alto.

“I wanted to be more involved in the community,” Ali said. “I think it’s really cool that we bring people of all faiths together.”

Twenty years from now, Jacob Howmiller said he wonders if society will think about the coronavirus pandemic in the same way as current memories of 9/11 – as a world-changing event that some people are too young for. even remember.

“It’s never really the same to live in it, rather to hear about it afterwards,” Howmiller said. “You can never really experience it if you don’t live there right now.”

Currently in senior year at Los Altos High School, Howmiller was born four years after September 11. He can’t remember a time when he wasn’t aware of the attacks.

“Ever since I remember … and have conscious memories of myself, I feel like I already knew about 9/11 – a rough idea of ​​what happened,” a- he declared.

This may be in part because her grandfather’s birthday falls on September 11, so the family would mark the anniversary every year.

When Howmiller reads the stories of September 11, he says, he was struck by the courage and bravery of the first responders. Despite the tragedy, he said there were bright spots – including the national solidarity it created, as well as the focus on preventing another attack.

“It brought America together,” Howmiller said. “It was when American morale was at its highest.”

When 9/11 is brought up at school, Cole Sturino said his teachers always try to make the class understand the magnitude of the tragedy, knowing that the students don’t have the same visceral association with the day.

It is considered a “hammer blow,” Sturino said, with people alive at the time remembering exactly where they were and what they were doing when they found it. He said it’s similar to how his grandparents or great-grandparents can remember JFK’s assassination.

“I don’t think my generation has really had that moment yet,” Sturino said.

His father told him the story of being on vacation in Germany at the time and walking around a town square when he heard a report on the radio that the Twin Towers had been attacked.

Without the vacation, Sturino said his father likely would have seen the plane hit the Pentagon because he was working in Washington, DC at the time. After the attacks, two of his cousins ​​joined the army.

Sturino said he knew there were parts of 9/11 that his generation did not understand, but added that their youth allows them to see its impact “without being clouded by this need to fight back against the people who we are. have injured “.

“It was never our fight,” he added.

Sturino said he knew there had to be justice and a response to the killing of innocent people, but didn’t believe the United States should have gone to war, let alone stayed in the region for two decades.

The first time Yonu Oh, a junior at the Castilleja school, really remembers learning about the 9/11 attacks was when she and her family visited the 9/11 museum and memorial in New York City. About the fifth year at the time, Oh said she realized the importance of the day.

“The plethora of names written on the black base was a huge shock to me – lives were gone in the blink of an eye,” Oh wrote in an email.

The memorial stands on the site where the Twin Towers once stood and features the names, inscribed in bronze, of 2,983 people killed. Seeing this monument and viewing artifacts from the attacks in the museum helped her contextualize what 9/11 had meant for the nation.

A few years ago, as she reflected on a 9/11 anniversary with her mother, Oh said her mother told her the story of flying to New York on the day of the attacks, only so that the plane is forced to turn. about. While Oh and her peers might not have those kind of first-hand memories, she believes her generation’s role is to keep remembering what happened.

“We still carry this legacy,” Oh said.


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