published Sunday, September 11th, 2011

9/11 changed the nation but not daily life for the Millennial Generation

The twin towers of the World Trade Center burn after hijacked planes crashed into them in New York on September 11, 2001.
The twin towers of the World Trade Center burn after hijacked planes crashed into them in New York on September 11, 2001.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
September 11, 2001, remembered
  • photo
    Construction continues on the new One World Trade Center, which has reached the 76th floor on its way to 104 floors. In the foreground, work also takes place at the Vehicle Security Center, which will screen buses, trucks, and cars entering the WTC site.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

People said 9/11 would change everything, and didn't it?

At the airport, we submit to full-body scans, take our shoes off and keep containers of liquids small enough to fit into Ziploc bags. We know words like Quran and Taliban. More of us have neighbors or sons and daughters who have come home from combat in Afghanistan or Iraq, and many know soldiers who never returned.

And there are the things we didn't see: warrantless wiretapping, our nation's marred image in the eyes of the rest of the world, a crushing debt caused, in part, by running two wars that cost billions of dollars each week.

Then there are things we think we've seen too much of: 6,000 U.S. soldiers killed overseas and more than 4,000 injured.

After the Twin Towers fell in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, scholars and talking heads on cable news and radio said the day would define a generation, as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or attack on Pearl Harbor did. It would be a day seared into the consciousness of the generation. Bumper stickers and signs read "Never forget."

But in the space of 10 years, as the high schoolers and college students who lived through 9/11 grew into adulthood, some say the fire and death of that day have lost some of their potency. Real life got in the way and, for better or worse, the effects of 9/11 are more of an undercurrent than a surface wave.

For the 18- to 30-year-olds in the Tennessee Valley, talk of layoffs and double-dip recessions stirs more panic than terrorism these days. Nationally, the politics of war, privacy and security are forever altered, but it's hard to say how those debates reach those who live hundreds of miles from New York without military connection or political involvement.

For the bank teller who drives her young kids to school then soccer, for the senior in college looking to start a life and get a job, for the cable repairman going to night school, the imprint of 9/11 is not as glaring in daily life.

Drew Holland, a 25-year-old living in Hixson, said he still ties his shoes the same and eats three meals a day.

"I don't feel unsafe or safer than I did before," he said. "I'm sure there are things that have changed on a daily basis, but not that I think about."

The closer you were to the attack, the more you felt it. New Yorkers are reminded constantly by an altered skyline. The memory is closer to the surface for people in Washington, D.C., near where a plane hit the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania, where the heroic efforts of passengers drove Flight 93 into a field instead of the White House.

Many live without people they loved and still grieve. First responders live with illnesses they got from hauling debris from the pit and from memories that never die.

Even here, the wreckage of that day jarred some enough to veer the direction of their lives.

There have been a lot of assumptions about how 9/11 would impact a generation of youth, but it's guesswork, said Christopher Horn, a 37-year-old political science professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. This fall, he is teaching a class on the Millennial Generation, which covers 18- to 29-year-olds and also is known as Generation Y.

It's hard to point to reputable research that says this generation is more fearful or more engaged than previous generations and even harder to link changes to 9/11, he said.

"So much of what has been written is impressionistic. There has been a long-standing tendency to stereotype younger generations in similar ways, and that is mostly what is going on now," Horn said.

As a 27-year-old graduate student on 9/11, Horn said his sense of security was rattled for the first time. He was expecting his first child and called the days following the terrorist attack scary and uncertain. He rarely, if ever, thinks of that time now.

"I have accepted it as normal," he said.

That's also what his students told Horn this semester when they talked about the mark of 9/11. The freshmen in his class say the thought that bad things can happen to this country always has felt normal.

But there is a tinge of guilt about this, especially among those in their late 20s or early 30s who were old enough to understand the magnitude of the worst foreign attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor in 1941.

When the anniversary approaches and the television is peppered with documentaries about survivors and Ground Zero, many are reminded that nearly 3,000 people died, that some people jumped from flaming towers to escape burning to death, that buildings collapsed, crushing others underneath. A barrage of images forces us to grow accustomed to the shock and ugliness.

"You always hate to get conditioned to think, 'Well, that is just how things are now,' but you kind of have to move on," said Jamie Hamby, a 32-year-old who lives in Cleveland, Tenn.

The grieving period can begin to come to an end, some say. After all, Osama bin Laden was caught and shot to death this year, and we have been safe inside our borders from outside terrorists for a decade.

"We learn to live and we learn to move on because that is what's meant to happen," said Adrienne Teague, 27, who lives in downtown Chattanooga. "Where would we be if we constantly sat around mourning about it?"

But holding tight to memories of that day is important to others, who say the attack has lived in the background of their lives all these years. They are the ones who will say, while it's easy to forget, losing a connection to 9/11 is dangerous.

Holly Vincent was recruiting at a college fair for Tennessee Tech University when she heard two planes had crashed in New York City.

At 24, she was newly wed to a Marine and felt terrified he would be called away as she watched the military recruiters pack up at the fair. They moved so fast, she said, it felt they were going to war that instant. In that moment, she decided she wasn't going to be a college recruiter anymore.

"It changed my whole perspective on life," said Vincent, a 34-year-old Cleveland resident who now works in public relations. "I didn't want to be in a hotel away from my family."

Her husband's commitment to the Marines was extended for a year because of 9/11, and every day she waited for news that he would be called away. It never came.

"I was scared to death," she said. "We had big plans. This was supposed to be a new chapter in our life."

William Lunny was just 16 when it happened. He calls the day "our big moment," and said it solidified his decision to join the military six years later.

Now, as a 26-year-old, he said he doesn't get tired of the anniversaries or memorial services, even though he notices fatigue in others his age or younger.

People don't like to dwell on what they can't control; they think about what is right in front of them, he said. But he wishes that weren't true.

There are still two wars going on. There still will be Tennessee families who lose loved ones because of the aftermath of that day, he said.

"You have to memorialize. If you don't learn history, you are doomed to repeat it. If we don't remember it, it was a waste," he said.

AP Live 9/11 Anniversary Player
about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
librul said...

Reflecting on the last ten years, Chris Hedges has it exactly right:

"Those of us who were close to the epicenters of the 9/11 attacks would primarily grieve and mourn. Those who had some distance would indulge in the growing nationalist cant and calls for blood that would soon triumph over reason and sanity. Nationalism was a disease I knew intimately as a war correspondent. It is anti-thought. It is primarily about self-exaltation. The flip side of nationalism is always racism, the dehumanization of the enemy and all who appear to question the cause. The plague of nationalism began almost immediately. My son, who was 11, asked me what the difference was between cars flying small American flags and cars flying large American flags.

“The people with the really big flags are the really big a$$holes,” I told him.

"We could have gone another route. We could have built on the profound sympathy and empathy that swept through the world following the attacks. The revulsion over the crimes that took place 10 years ago, including in the Muslim world, where I was working in the weeks and months after 9/11, was nearly universal. The attacks, if we had turned them over to intelligence agencies and diplomats, might have opened possibilities not of war and death but ultimately reconciliation and communication, of redressing the wrongs that we commit in the Middle East and that are committed by Israel with our blessing. It was a moment we squandered. Our brutality and triumphalism, the byproducts of nationalism and our infantile pride, revived the jihadist movement. We became the radical Islamist movement’s most effective recruiting tool. We descended to its barbarity. We became terrorists too. The sad legacy of 9/11 is that the a$$holes, on each side, won."

Seeing Bush behind a podium talking solemly about 911, watching Cheney hawk his book and arrogantly endorse torture, reviewing the ream of unanswered questions, secrecy and obfuscation about the run up to the event and the event itself - it all makes one want to puke. And then you heap the national disgrace of our needless, immoral warfare and the tens of thousands of innocents who have died at our bloodied hands and looking in the mirror brings more and more pain. The question is, "who benefits". Our military-industrial-oil complex and the State of Israel are the ONLY answers.

September 11, 2011 at 12:10 p.m.
Legend said...

Thanks librul. Well said. My memory of 9/11/2001 is one of first seemingly a nation united, then immediately a nation divided and scattered. I can immediately recall the experience of a friend of mind(a minority) who sought to purchase a book of stamps to add to his small stamp collection. They were the special designed ones of first responders raising the American flag(tremember the hoopla over that, because the artist sought to include various ethnic groups in his design), the postal clerk at a local postal facility refused to sell him the book of stamps. The anger and reason was obvious.

Long before it hit mainstream America and Americans that 9/11 would actually divide rather than unite, many of us already saw the division growing in volume.

My eventual thoughts on 9/11/2001 were someone decided to play GOD, and got away with it. 9/11/2001 accomplished what it was designed to accomplish. Scatter the masses, like in the biblical story, where the towers were destroyed and the people and languages forever scattered.

September 11, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.
librul said...

Wow - and Paul Krugman, too!

The Years of Shame

Posted September 11, 2011, 8:41 am

"Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?

"Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.

"What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. Te atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

"A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?

"The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it."

September 11, 2011 at 2:57 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

I am not participating in the nationwide pity party surrounding 9/11 or the patriotic fervor over our troops who are fighting for our so called freedom from "terrorism." While I feel great sadness for those who lost their lives that day (all the innocent victims in the towers and the truly heroic firefighters and others who courageously tried to save them) I feel extreme disgust over the stupid, blatant lies still being fed to an incredibly dense number of people who still believe them.

I am one of those much reviled "truthers" and I don't care how many people call me a conspiracy theory kook or even worse. I used to believe the bs "official" version of things but there were so many holes in it that I always had questions. Then I saw Richard Gage's "9/11: Blueprint for Truth." It was eye-opening, to say the least. Richard Gage and the more than 1500 architects and engineers who support him are not hare-brained wackos who are easily persuaded by random conspiracy theories. They are highly educated, pragmatic scientists and professionals - many of them conservative leaning - who bring clear-eyed logic and scientific scrutiny to their analysis of what happened to the three towers that went down that day. And their indisputable conclusion is that all three towers were brought down by carefully concealed controlled demolition. To believe otherwise is to deny the very laws of physics.

For those of you who choose to accept the faulty, haphazard findings of NIST as to how the towers went down, I challenge you to compare the research that went into their analysis as compared to the pure scientific research that went into that performed by the scientists who studied this with open eyes and an open mind. NIST was a travesty, a shameless cover-up, as was the phony 9/11 Commission that was belatedly and begrudgingly put in place and practically hand-picked by GWB.

But regardless of how or why things really went down that day, we have become a nation so obsessed with "terrorism" that we are now our own worst enemy. What's more, we have become the terrorists! In Afghanistan and Iraq we have killed between 500,00 and a million innocent people, all in the name of fighting "terrorism." We lost 3000-and-something Americans on 9/11 and in our irrational rush to justice we have killed hundreds of thousands (at least) of people who had NOTHING to do with our 9/11. And still the killing goes on and still you people wave your flags and want to support our troops who are doing all the killing of the innocents. Well, excuse me for not waving my flag or hugging a soldier or feeling particularly patriotic about 9/11. Let's get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan and put Bush, Cheney, and their entire gang of neo-con war criminals behind bars where they belong, and I will have reason to feel proud of this country again, or at least have reason to believe that we are getting back on the right track.

September 11, 2011 at 3 p.m.
macropetala8 said...

cbtole said... Why don't they show some payback? I'd love to see pictures of Bin Laden with his head blown off and American bullets riddling his rotting carcass.

That's because you're apparently as sick, more twisted and warped as the monsters who committed 9/11. I agree with the poster who said someone got away with playing GOD. And I'd like to add, it certainly wasn't anyone dictating orders thousands of miles away from some cave.

Remember the warning words of Julius Caesar. Words that, over 2000 years later, would be repeated almost in detail by some slob by the name of Herman Goering during the Nuremberg trials.

"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

September 11, 2011 at 7:48 p.m.
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