Where were you 15 years ago when a beautiful September morn suddenly turned into one of the most tragic days in our nation’s history?
Those of you in your 30s or older will be able to answer that question in a heartbeat. You may have heard the news — initially about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center — on the radio or television; from a teacher, family member, co-worker or friend; or you may have been in New York; Washington, D.C.; or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, yourself. You may have lost someone close to you on 9/11, or you may have helped the victims’ families in the weeks, months and years following the tragedies.
However, for those under 18 — as nearly a quarter of all Americans are — memories of 9/11 are extremely limited or, most likely, non-existent. And while those of us who lived through 9/11 consider it to be a turning point in our perceptions of safety and security, the nation’s children, sadly, have only known a world where global turmoil and terrorism are the norm. Though the world may be their oyster, they also know it’s not entirely safe out there.
We’ve all been shaped by history, whether we lived through certain historic events or not. We are who we are today because of wars fought long ago, stands taken, words spoken or heard, tragedies endured and victories celebrated. But history affects each of us in different ways — and the paths we take as a result could have positive implications or negative ones.
But our post 9/11 youth, who’ve inherited a tumultuous world, are determined to make it a better place. Studies have shown that 60 percent of Generation Z, born around the start of the Millennium, intend to positively change the world. Contrast that with 39 percent of their Gen X parents, who, as youth, were drawn to doing good.
The philanthropic spirit of our young people gives me hope as we commemorate the Sept. 11 tragedies this month. When the going was tough — or maybe because the going was tough — they were inspired to turn it around. That saying about clouds having silver linings may actually be true. The silver linings that our futures rest upon may be our children.