By Alex Brown, Editor-in-Chief
Ten years ago, smoke rose from the gaping chasm in the New York City skyline. For a long time after, the images and memories of Sept. 11 left a gash in the psyche of anyone old enough to understand the tragedy. That day’s indelible imprint — one that has shaped so much in the decade since — left perhaps the most striking effects on those of us who came of age in an era of terrorism, fear, paranoia and war.
We learned of the attacks in elementary school classrooms and watched our teachers try to be reassuring as they struggled to piece together what had happened. When we saw the news reports and witnessed the images of devastation, a grim new reality confronted us. Suddenly, a “day of infamy” was not just something from the history books.
We watched as our country rode a tide of patriotic fervor, vowing justice on the terrorists. Just a few years later, we saw it fragmented — polarized by a divisive war. We became aware of things like anthrax, air marshals and al-Qaeda. It may be melodramatic to say 9/11 stole the innocence of a generation, but at the very least it rocked the consciousness of an impressionable age group.
The tragedy is indisputably the seminal moment of the young century, and the world is forever altered by the events of that day. For most of us, 9/11 marks roughly the midpoint of our lives. As the 10th anniversary approaches, its effects can be seen in nearly every major event that has transpired since.
For most of us, though, the personal impact of 9/11 is minimal. In the next few years, many of us who were school children in 2001 will be entering the workforce , and the only drama surrounding our addition to the working ranks will come from the crummy economy. Perhaps that will be our legacy. As children, we faced the harsh reality of a national tragedy. We were scarred, without a doubt. But just as our nation rallied, refusing to let our way of life be changed, our path to adulthood has been little different than so many before us.
It may be odd to say a return to normal can be a legacy, but that may be the case. Our country, shell-shocked and stunned that day, has recovered and moved on. Likewise, its most fragile, impressionable citizens a decade ago are now poised, like every preceding generation, to take a place among its leaders.
President Bush addressed the nation the evening after the attacks, and his words hold true today: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.”
Our generation will have a chance to prove him right.