Twenty-two years ago this week our world crumbled, literally and figuratively. Ground zero, Homeland Security, TSA, Patriot Act, and terrorism took permanent residence in our lexicon. Post 9/11 air travel morphed into an onerous experience, government spending increased exponentially, wars were waged to questionable outcomes and racial profiling became a thing for brown people.
More than 3,000 children lost a parent on that dreadful day, some too young to comprehend the details. 13,238 babies were born in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 and they are turning 22 this week. Add to this the kids who have followed and now you have an entire generation that never experienced or does not remember the horror of 9/11.
Yet, these kids have lived in the PTSD that ensued. Every year I wonder what this day means to them. We say "never forget" but how do they remember something they never lived through.
9/11 to this generation of kids is like the Holocaust to me. I was born after the Holocaust but starting in high school, we were steeped in the historical events that preceded, occurred during and the world order that followed WWII. We know genocide should never be allowed to happen again. Yet, it has occurred alarming frequency since then.
What has helped keep the Holocaust in the forefront is the mountain of books, movies, and documentaries that keep reminding us of the unimaginable horror humans are demonstrably capable of inflicting; horror that impacts millions across generations.
In 2021, PBS did a show on how 9/11 has impacted the next generation. Fear is palpable in the reactions they recorded.
This response stops me in my tracks.
With the pandemic, some teachers chose not to focus on the dark events of 9/11. Kids were isolated in their homes, learning on zoom and deeply entangled in social media where disinformation runs rampant. They did not need to be brought to the threshold of 9/11. Who wouldn't agree with the sentiment of protecting children when the entire world was shut down.
The flip side is that I think we may be forgetting even while repeating #neverforget.
The question I'm grappling with is this: what will we tell Mina when the time is right?
I am thinking we should tell her the same thing about the Holocaust, 9/11 and other historical events. There is incredible goodness in this world along with dark forces that defy imagination. Find the light, stick to it, promote it, and contribute to it. Don't fear for the sake of fearing. Be aware, use your best judgement and actively work on rejecting the forces that tear us apart.
Too often we keep quiet because of a this-too-shall-pass mentality. The energy it takes to argue with the loud voices among us can be show-stopping, but our reticence fuels the disinformation they spread. There is good news in the midst of this. The 10th annual Deloitte Global Millennial and Gen Z Survey (2021) revealed that these generations view the world to be on a tipping point on topics such as racial justice, inequality and the environment and these young adults are not waiting for the us to drive the agenda. They are becoming more politically involved and contributing their time and money to causes that build a better future, a future that my generation has actively jeopardized.
As the adults in Mina's life we have to encourage her to engage with her peers in bettering our world and teach her to sift through the signals by remembering the moments that matter, the ones that shape us like 9/11.
Let's hope. Never again. Never forget. Onward!