I have recently taken a job where I am instructing 16 year olds. One thought that has occurred to me during the time I have spent with them is how very long it has been since I was that age. A second thought that has pierced its way into my conscious thoughts is that these bright-eyed youths have no memory of a pre-911 world. This is especially salient to me on this, the 14th anniversary of the worst attack on American soil by a foreign power since the British invaded and burned Washington DC to the ground during the War of 1812.
As I have listened to the memorializing on radio and elsewhere, and the almost mandatory recounting of each person's recollection of that horrible morning, I can not help but think of those teens in my class. What must they think of their elders' painful and tortured retelling of an event which to them is as ancient a historical marker as Pearl Harbor was to my generation? After all, to them this day is filled with the immediate concerns over that math test in second period, whether the object of their affections returns those affections, and hoping they pass their drivers' examine.
Of course fourteen years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was a decade removed from the end of hostilities between us and them. Today's remembrances are a mile marker on the road of our struggle with the enemy that attacked us 14 years ago, not a look back at the highway of that battle that we have long ago exited. There is no memorial celebration knowing that we were ultimately victorious over our attackers. There is only the stale taste of our strife with an enemy that only seems to grow stronger and more resolved.
Many on this day have chosen to mark the anniversary of the 14 year old act of war as if it were a battle from some distant conflict. Others have chosen to relive the event as if somehow they can recapture the minutes and hours before those aircraft, guided by their terrorist masters, plunged us headlong into a dark and barbarically murderous future. But then history always moves forward, never backwards. And we must live through the history we are given, day by day, conflict by conflict.
It is important to remember the significance of this anniversary of 9-11, and pay cognitive homage to the awareness that this struggle, and this war, has not ended. But it is also important to understand that we have been changed irrevocably as a country, those of us that lived through that day as adults, and those who have no personal memory of that day.
I have tried to place myself into the mindset of growing up in a post-911 America, I cannot. I went through that day, and the days of aftermath that followed. Those students in my class did not. To them the post-911 world, as chaotic as it may seem, is perfectly natural. Every generation is somehow changed by events from the previous generation. And each one in its own way loses some of the innocence that is associated with youth as defined by the older generation. So on this anniversary of 9-11 allow yourself the memorial of your experience. But be careful not to deny others with disparate experiences the reaction to this day that that experience requires of them. Even if it is no memorial at all.