I think my peers and I, us “millennials,” are the 9/11 generation.
To most of us, this was the most formative moment of our childhood. Too young to understand the immense hatred that was brought to our doorstep that morning. And yet, we’ve spent the rest of our lives picking up the pieces.
Old enough to remember it.
Old enough to understand what complete terror looks like.
Old enough to remember looking up at our teachers, parents, and other grown-ups we depended on for everything and see that we weren’t going to find any reassurance from them that day.
They couldn’t say everything was okay because it wasn’t.
Our childhoods immediately divided in half. Before 9/11 and after.
Children that day came home to find that they no longer had mothers or fathers or sisters or brothers or aunts or uncles.
Thousands more said goodbye to these parents and siblings and relatives and the world of peace they grew up in as we watched them get on planes to fight in places we never even heard of.
We spent the next decade in an intense level of patriotism. Where Toby Keith sang about the hellfire we’d bring and a yellow ribbon magnet was on almost every car. Each school wrote letters to service members, and police officers and firefighters ate for free on Thursday nights from 6-9 p.m. at the local diner.
It was a decade of an intense love for our nation and the people in it.
And then we grew up.
The ones that were older grew tired.
The bright shiny toy of patriotism lost its shine.
Our younger siblings no longer have any recollection of the event that formed us into the people we became.
But we remember.
How can we not? It’s now our generation that stands ready at the door.
It’s now our generation that gets on those planes, kisses their loved ones goodbye, and maybe even dies in the same place our parents lived and fought and died.
It’s now our generation that runs into burning buildings and gunfire.
Just because terrorism has changed its name and changed its face doesn’t mean it isn’t the same ugly hatred we saw on our TVs 18 years ago.
We see the hatred overseas, and now our generation is fighting it.
We see the hatred in school gunmen, and now our generation is fighting it.
We see the hatred in our politics, and I pray to God our generation starts fighting it together.
But, more than anything, I hope we always remember.
How can we not? We’re the 9/11 generation. We’re the ones that grew up in the aftermath.
Thank you to the ones who grew up in the war, saw the devastating outcomes, and answered the call anyway.
Thank you to the ones who saw respect and love for first responders, saw it stop as they grew older, and joined anyway.
Thank you to those who saw hate incarnate from their classroom 18 years ago and fought hate anyway.
We’re the 9/11 generation, and we will never forget.