You look at the clock. It's 9:11 again. It is a time and a number that registers in everyone's head. That sunny summer day in 2001 both scarred and saddened all Americans. As the first anniversary approached, I wondered whether the ten-year anniversary would sweep another cloud over New York City, transforming a picture-perfect blue sky into a city of dust falling like snow in December and tears like rain in April. That thought has persisted in the decade following the attacks.
One year after that ten-year anniversary, I now wonder if these anniversaries will evolve into nothing but anniversaries in the years to come. Many young people today, me included, would struggle to tell you the exact date of the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor without a quick Google search. Like December 7, 1941, we can't expect young people in the years to come to feel the emotions of September 11, 2011, but we must continue to use this date to remind them of what happens when Americans unite, even in the worst of times.
I am among the last who will remember that actual infamous day eleven years ago. I was in second grade. Seven years old. I was practicing my times tables as a plane smashed into the North Tower.
That day was just like any other. In fact, for me, it remained just another day for some time. Sure, I never forgot it, but as an elementary school student, I was just opening my eyes to the world. I knew of AOL based on its famed "You've got mail," I knew of Barry Bonds because of Backyard Baseball and I knew of George W. Bush more for his accent than his position.
For all I knew, plane crashes into buildings happened as frequently as car crashes. My only concern was for the safety of my uncle, my grandparents and my father, all of whom were in Midtown or Downtown Manhattan. I was worried, but somehow, that day was normal.
As I exited Lakeville Elementary School, I encountered a large group of worried, concerned, and loving parents crowded around the front steps. Again, I was confused, but it had happened before and it was just another day. Instead of taking the bus, my dad walked me home for the first time in my young academic career. His being home at such an hour was quite an irregularity, but it didn't faze me.
Then I turned on the TV.
Although people like to say that we became stronger that day, it is hard for most Americans, including myself, to truly believe it. It hurts to know what we once were and what we have now become. Our country is broken -- in politics and economics -- but among all of that there is hope. Our generation is the most caring and connected generation in recent history.
9/11 inspired service and selflessness. As much as it ripped holes in our hearts, we have not lost our spirit. Our generation in particular has the ability to make something of that tragic day and to make sure that lives were not lost in vain. With all of the bad in the world, American young generation wants to make a difference; we want to stand out; we want to see America reclaim its status as the undisputed world leader, and we want to be a part of it.
On May 2, 2011, Osama bin Laden -- the face of the 9/11 attacks -- was shot dead. Nearly ten years after the day that he put a bullet through America's heart, America put a bullet in his head. As young children, we first hear the story of the boogieman. Bin Laden was not simply a part of a story; Bin Laden was our real-life boogieman. When news broke of his death, the 9/11 Generation immediately stormed the streets to stage patriotic celebrations, not of bin Laden's death, but of the death of the face of terror.
Many used the word "closure" to describe his death. As much as we would like this to be true, the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 is evidence that no closure can come for such a horrifying and terrifying day. Today's use of the word was described eloquently by TV personality Anderson Cooper: "It's a TV word," he said. Closure is something we all want but something we will never get. As time goes by the pain may ease, but the recovery must not stall.
While I ponder the loss of over 3,000 lives, some of who walked the very halls and streets that I now walk, I wonder not how we recovered -- because we haven't (at least not completely) -- but what we, as a nation, have become and what we, as a generation, will become. Nothing good can come from such an infamous day, but something good can come from us. I do not dream of a full recovery. What I dream of is a return of hope, a return of stability and a return of the belief that America cannot be defeated.
The memory will live on and the dream will prevail.