Reflections of a Millennial on September 11

*Note: A “Millennial” is a member of the Millennial Generation (people born between 1980 and 1995). I was born in 1989. Here’s my perspective…

It is hard to believe that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is in one week. Where has the time gone? It’s amazing how much has happened and how much this event shaped the Millennial Generation.

The world has changed so much this last, turbulent decade. America entered two wars (and ironically lowered taxes to somehow pay for them), saw some of its worst natural disasters, lost several key figures and celebrities (Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy, Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, etc.), saw its Middle Class decline and crashed into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

We also advanced in the fields of science and genetics, discovered hundreds of planets orbiting other stars (some that may be Earth-like and harbor life), saw the advancement of gay rights with several states (and other nations) legalizing marriage equality, elected the first African-American to the White House and became addicted to the mp3 player. Quite the contrast.

Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” opens with this famous paragraph that perfectly sums up the opening decade of the 21st century:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

My generation is used to these extremes. According to demographers, people in my age group (late teens to early 30s) are accustomed to the threat of terrorism. Personally, having gone through my teenage years during the last decade, it is hard for me to imagine airports without security lines and strict carry-on rules.

We are also skeptical of organized religion, given the great advancement of science and the global display of extremist religion. We’ve seen how much hatred and violence is bred from ignorance and intolerance. Millennials want to see a peaceful world where all are equal. Nationalism isn’t as strong with our generation as it was with others in the past. We see ourselves as part of an emerging and growing global culture that transcends political lines on a map. Even young people in the Middle East see the need for tolerance and democracy (ie: Arab Spring 2011).

September 11 was a wake-up call to everyone. We were assured that a prosperous, promising future was going to come to us. We never thought that a group of religious fanatics would murder thousands and compromise global security. Seeing the towers collapse into a cloud of twisted steel and rubble was a slap in the face and a call to arms for us to fight for a better tomorrow.

My only hope is that the next decade is smoother than the last. As we remember how the world changed on a single day, let us look toward a future of reason and peaceful coexistence. I know there will be global conflicts, famine and disease; Those aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But I hope that as science and discovery open new horizons to us, humanity doesn’t regress into the dark ages.

To see the progress at the Word Trade Center site, see my post (the latest in a series) on the construction as of August 2011: