Every generation has their moment, or moments, when the world seems to stand still.
For my great grandparents, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor. For my grandparents, it was the John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinations. For my parents, it was the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and September 11, 2001.
As a 23-year-old, I don’t remember first-hand what happened on 9/11. I know the stories I have heard. I can recite the facts that I learned in history class. For me, I don’t remember a world before 9/11, so when people say that the world changed after the terroristic attack, often they forget that there is now an entire generation who doesn’t remember or know what life was like before because their memories only consist of the years after.
For me, the moment my world stood still was probably when universities began closing because of COVID. I can tell you exactly where I was, who I was with and what we were doing when I scrolled through Facebook and stumbled upon a post stating that Berea College would be transitioning to online. I can remember telling my sister about it and her laughing it off saying, “That would never happen,” but then just a short time later I received an email from Eastern Kentucky University saying that we would also be transitioning.
While I remember that moment so vividly, the entire world didn’t stop to mourn the loss that I perceived. It wasn’t a moment that was filled with the loss of life, though it would come, but it was a moment simply of being pushed out of the ordinary.
In comparison to war and terrorism, it seems minor and even inconsequential, yet it is the closest memory I have to experiencing a moment when the world stood still.
While other events, like the Paris attacks in 2015, caused people from across the world to band together, it seemed like a terrible disaster across the pond. As a junior in high school, I don’t remember teachers stopping the class for us to watch history unfold.
As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 terroristic attack nears, I have begun to hear people reminisce about so-and-so who responded with the military, teachers who recall turning on their classroom televisions and sitting with students as they watched the plane fly into the south tower of the World Trade Center, and journalists who recall travelling to work or being in the newsroom watching the attack play out on screens in real time. While people reminisce on where they were or what they were doing, no one explains the fear or heartbreak. I guess it is assumed that my generation will understand and relate, yet they forget that we have no point of comparison.
As my generation gets older, we are, unfortunately, waiting for our moment. I fear the moment when I will stand still along with the rest of the world watching the calamity of some attack or disaster take place.
As the anniversary draws near, I encourage the generations who remember to share your stories, but also share your emotions. Tell me about what happened next. Did you go to church that next Sunday? Did you call the friend you had been meaning to but never seemed to have the time? How did your world change?
I had a history teacher in high school who would tell us, “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Tell me and my generation your history – the true history, not the romanticized textbook version – so that we can do our best to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
It’s like I said, I fear the moment our world will stand still again. I truly hope and pray that it will never come, but I expect it will come far too soon.