People always say they remember exactly where they were when 9/11 happened. That fateful day has been burned into the memories of people across the globe. But for people of my generation, we may only remember bits and pieces of that day. I remember being four years old and asking for a sandwich. My request was promptly denied, which I remember being very unusual for that age. I knew something was wrong because my mom always keeps a level head. I remember looking at the TV and seeing the towers on fire, part of me beginning to understand that something was seriously wrong.
Hearing some of the speeches that George W. Bush gave right after 9/11 makes me proud to be an American. He helped to bring a little bit of comfort to the citizens when the whole country was plagued with fear. Hearing Bush talk about standing together as one, while standing near the smoldering ashes of the Twin Towers never fails to make the hairs on my arms stand up.
That kind of patriotism is something that I think, as a result of this terror attack, was instilled in me at a very young age. Seeing America stand as one and take a stand, not against a religion, but a set of ideas, was as profound as it was intelligent. There was no name calling from the leaders of our nation. We had one goal: to get the people that did this to us. Not since 9/11 have I read about Americans uniting under one cause.
Our country is as divided as I have ever seen it. I think what people are forgetting is that, at the end of the day, we are all Americans. We bleed the same blood and live in the same neighborhoods. While it is obviously more complex than that, sometimes it is worth taking a step back and acknowledging the fact that we are cut from the same cloth.
I have come to realize that even though my memory of that day does not serve me so well, the experiences I have had in the days since showcase that even people of my generation were affected by 9/11 to our very core. The lives that we lived as children were vastly different than the lives lived by our parents, mostly because we were brought up in a nation in constant fear.
Fear is a natural reaction to a tragedy, especially when the tragedy takes place in your own country. The difference in this situation is that fear has turned from a natural reaction, felt once in a blue moon, to our default setting.
I know that whenever I get on a plane, I have thoughts of a terrorist attack in the back of my mind. Removing myself from the situation, this is completely irrational. The added security measures that have been implemented over the years bring the safety that we needed on 9/11. Still, fear is not an easy thing to reason with.
Whenever I am in an especially crowded train station or at a packed sporting event, one thought is always present in my mind: I hope today isn’t like that day. While we may all think this way in this age of terrorism, people my age know nothing different. This is our normal. I can’t even comprehend that there was a time where you could go places with a blissful ignorance, unfazed by what problems may be around the corner.
It seems that the days of “kids being kids” are long gone. Rarely do I see kids walking around this city without the company of adults. Society has changed, and people have become more conservative. Not in terms of politics, but in the way that they live their everyday lives. They may think twice about doing what they want to do because they fear a terrorist attack. We get warnings, an extra sincere, “Be careful,” before going to any large gathering. While it may be logical or even a force of habit, by doing this, we are letting the terrorists win.
However, while this fear may have real estate in the heads of many Americans, it certainly does not define us. We have made the decision to go to war against terrorism, we have improved our security measures to be some of the most impressive in the world, and we are starting to claw back from the fear that once had American citizens in a stranglehold.
9/11 was one of worst days in American history. The terrorists that day took parents, grandparents and children alike. They showed no mercy and that can’t be forgotten. It changed the way a whole generation was raised. The fear that we all feel is natural, but is important to never give all the way in to this fear. By doing this, we would lose what it means to really be an American.