A couple of years ago I heard the term Post 9/11 Generation. This Generation, born after September 11, 2001., will never know a world without body scans, shoe bombers, and Guantanamo Bay. They will never know the phrase “You don’t need ID to enter the States” or the phrase “Innocent until proven guilty,” and “Religious freedom”. Instead, all they will know is that anyone could be a terrorist, and we are never safe.
It was about 7am in North Vancouver and my usual clock radio woke me up with muffled voices. My usual symphony of Jennifer Lopez’s I’m Real, Destiny Child’s Bootylicious, and Fallin’ by Alicia Keys was instead a symphony of disaster, heartache, and confusion. Of course, being about 80% asleep still, my 26 year-old mind did not fully comprehend what was happening, or that the world was changing as I slowly opened my eyes. I remember hearing plane crash. I remember hearing New York. I remember hearing accident.
A couple of minutes later my phone rang. It was my friend Sue. I thought that she was calling me to tell me she was running late as she picked me up to go to work together most mornings. “Did you hear what happened in New York?” she asked. “Something about a plane crash,” I responded listlessly. “Turn on your tv,” she said. “I’ll see you soon.”
I went to the living room, both cats in tow, unaffected by the turmoil around them. All Frisky and Kiara wanted to do was eat, but that would have to wait until I figured out why there was such a sense of doom surrounding my semblance.
I found the remote, hoping to find a channel that would tell me what was going on. Every channel was telling me what was going on. Two towers, engulfed in flames. Helicopters surrounding it. Speculation abound. There was very little said about terrorism, however as one newscaster began talking about it, it caught on. This was no longer a plane crash. This was an attack on the U.S.A.
What I did not know at this point was that an attack on the U.S.A. was an attack on the First World. Everyone else was the enemy. Those Post 9/11 Generationals will never know what it was like to not have that fear of otherness. I think that maybe it is somewhat like the Red Scare when Communism was Enemy #1. My mom would tell me of drills in school where they would have to hide under desks. My Dad told me of the days when my Grandma had a bomb shelter built in her enormous West Vancouver backyard. Maybe that was comparable to the collective fear on September 12, 2001.
I do not remember clear recollections of that day. I remember listening to the radio all day at work. I remember some of the stores being shut down in the mall I worked at because some of those stores were in the World Trade Center. I remember seeing what seemed like hundreds of planes landing at the Vancouver International Airport, and than not seeing one at all for many days.
Perhaps what sticks out to me, being a Generation X’er was the immediate spell North America and Western Europe fell under after our precious soil was attacked. For me, I became aware of my priviledge. My sense of security was attacked, yes, but I was able to keep going. I felt awful for all of those innocent folks who lost thier lives in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. What happened to them was wrong, and from what I suspect, avoidable. However, my way of life was not threatened. My priviledge was. My right to travel freely was undermined. My right to free speech was somehow torn down. My right to ignorance was no longer allowed.
I became a better, more skeptical person after September 11, 2001. I was roused to consciousness. I was suddenly aware of my place in the world. I was no longer as ignorant and closed in to the fact that the world did not and should not revolve around me. North American Post 9/11’ers were born into fear of otherness. Fear and self-righteousness. I am fortunate enough to be skeptical of the crafted fear around me. There are few enemies in this world. What 9/11 taught me was that those that run it, run our fears, and create our enemies. I am not a product of the fear that 9/11 brought us, but a believer in the questioning of where that fear came from.