You can’t explain 9/11 to those who are too young to remember, not really. Because the story of 9/11 isn’t just about the tragedy of a single, horrific day.
The world on September 10, 2001 was a beautiful place to be a 19-year-old college sophomore. The Cold War was over. The Berlin Wall was down. Europe was uniting under a common currency, breaking down borders. Historical enemies were now friends.
The American economy was good. The Congress was more focused on domestic priorities than anything happening abroad. Professors talked about a golden age of opportunity. One told me that we were lucky to be graduating into a nation full of jobs. He believed the new millennium would bring prosperity akin to the post-WWII boom. Everything was about the promise of the future.
Then, on a beautiful September day, it all ended.
It’s hard to quantify what 9/11 took from us. Some Americans lost loved ones, and suffered a personal tragedy beyond description. The rest of us lost our hope, the belief that tomorrow would be better than yesterday. The feeling that the world was becoming a better, safer place. We lost a decade of our lives (or more) to war, recession, partisan bitching about budgets, and the fear of what could happen next.
It’s astonishing to think about all of the young people who can’t remember the tragedy of September 11th. But it’s even more amazing that they’ll never know the hope and promise of September 10th. Perhaps one day, they’ll know what it felt like to live in a world full of hope and promise, of green lights and sunny days.
I would very much like to know that feeling again.