I remember, as much of the rest of the world does, the horror that occurred September 11, 2001. 9/11 is a day that will not – and should not – be forgotten, as it truly marked an occasion where those of us in North America fully realized that we are targets of the terrorists. However, those children born in 1999 and beyond, I have discovered, have very little connection to what happened that fateful day.
9/11 is a day that should be stored in the annals of history as the worst terror attack to hit American soil, and rightfully so. However, in discussing the matter with a group of Grade 10 students, while they have a great deal of empathy for what happened that day, they also do not have the appreciation for the significance of what happened. Granted, today’s Grade 10 students were born in 1999. They would have been 2 at the time of the World Trade Center attacks, and should have been more concerned with watching children’s shows than witnessing the horror as it unfolded on televisions worldwide.
It seems that 9/11, while historically significant, has now reached a generation that simply is too young to fully grasp the global impact of this event. There were, of course, a number of kids born on that day, and many grew up not knowing fathers that loved them before they were even born. Many grew up having been denied the privilege of knowing men who would have taught them simple things like how to tie shoelaces and how to play baseball.
I’m not denying the importance of 9/11. Far from it. I am saying, though, that there are legions of teens today that lack a sense of appreciation of the true terror and heroism that happened that day. It has taken on a sense of mystery, to an extent, in much the same way that a movie will hold audiences in its grasp for only so long.
What to do, then, for this generation who merely blinks and may comment about how sad 9/11 must have been when the day is mentioned? History lessons can only do so much, and we are now 13 years past the attack. The yearly reading of the roll of those lost in the attacks can only go on so long, and while it understandably stirs a sense of patriotism, particularly in the wake of President Obama’s harsh warning for ISIS, we can only hang on to the immediacy of the anguish of that day for so long. For families affected directly by the attacks, their pain will last a lifetime – that should come as no surprise – but it is important to recognize that we are now hitting a generation of children for whom 9/11 will not have much significance, and something needs to be done beyond a history lesson.
9/11 was no less tragic for those of us in Canada, and there are those of us who were gripped by nightmares and anxiety in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. However, we need to look at how to pass on the lessons learned from 9/11 to the generations to come. In its immediate aftermath, there was an upswing in terrible race-related crime, but in truth, we also learned that we truly are all in this together. Would that not be the best lesson to pass to those who are only starting to realize the impact of 9/11, and how its effects will continue to ripple?
Opinion by Christina St-Jean