Ten Years Later
I guess everyone has a 9/11 story. I was driving to our brand-new offices of New Hampshire Magazine in Manchester when I heard something on the radio about a plane crash at the World Trade Center. It was our first official day of work in the millyard space and the computer network was still dicey, so we had no qualms about spending most of the morning glued to a TV that was hastily hooked up to show the replays of the morning's horror over and over.
Like millions of Americans we hung up a flag that day in a spirit of solidarity. It was kind of awkwardly pinned up high on an office wall. It's still there, just where it was placed, 10 years later.
My children are all just older than 20, so each one of them has spent about half their lives - the half they best remember - in a post-9/11 world. I grew up in the duck-and-cover 1960s and I remember touring a real fallout shelter with my parents. It was on display at a bank for some reason; probably to assist with financing. As I recall there were several models for different income levels. I suppose every generation has some kind of nightmare hovering over its head.
There used to be a lot of speculation about what it meant to grow up in world where we (i.e. the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.) had the unprecedented ability to actually bring the whole game of civilization to an end in a cascade of mutually assured destruction. I really don't recall thinking much about it, focusing most of my angst on achieving detente with school and promoting glasnost and perestroika with the opposite sex.
Here in the 21st century it seems like any fanatic with enough patience and hate might be able to connive or contrive a nuclear trigger that would start the end game rolling, but as far as I can tell, today's youngsters are similarly impervious to psychic damage. Classic courtship issues and job prospects remain the most apparent concerns of young adults (if you can get them off their many screens long enough to inquire).
My evidence for this comes mostly from my own brood and their pals, but we're fortunate here at New Hampshire Magazine to attract a regular crop of bright interns. I asked one of them, Lauren Barber, 21, a journalism student from Ithaca College, what effect 9/11 had on her.
She remembers her fifth grade teacher attempting to explain to her class what had just happened, and then her father trying again once she was home and the news reports and images were running non-stop. She knew people had died and it was a terrible thing, but it didn't become personal, she says, until she came of age and some of her friends started joining the service for deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lauren says she picked her career course in journalism not to explore the politics behind an event like 9/11 but to tell the stories of people's lives in good times and bad. And, she says, in spite of economic crises, unrest in the Middle East and the predicted death of the news gathering industry, she's optimistic and excited about the future.
I suppose every generation has its own dreams.
And thank God for that.