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Growing up with 9/11

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By Meaghan Downs

At 12, I preferred to color between the lines.
I was probably darkening my doodled, misshapen stars in my notebook when my seventh grade teacher received the call.
He rushed out of the room, and rushed back in to turn on the loop of a plane, a tower and a TV screen full of smoke.
As a 12-year-old, my post-9/11 world still rotated around the typical routine: after school snacks, play rehearsal, church on Sundays.
I couldn’t predict that my world, by 2011, would be in danger of tilting off its axis.
It’s a gradual process, this falling off the Earth.
First, the surge and urge for patriotism and optimism.
Then, inevitably, comes hindsight.
Every media outlet with a viewer or reader had been re-reporting thoughts, videos and Twitter feeds of everyone’s circumstances surrounding that September morning.
The New York Times even featured an interactive map online, complete with a digital pin to mark your location, and a multiple-choice bubble to choose your mood and outlook on the future of the nation.
My computer arrow hovered over the emotional spectrum offered from angry to indifferent.
Sometimes, I feel the latter.
It’s an awful truth, to recognize your nonchalance about such an important date in our nation’s history.
But remember, I grew up alongside the increasingly cautious America, with heightened security checks at airports, color codes for levels of terrorism announced like 10-day weather forecasts, a war in another country among a culture that I barely understood.
Once the lines were drawn, I had no trouble coloring in between the boundaries set for new America.
I never questioned how the world was set spinning in a whole new direction.
And there may be an entire generation of Americans that never will, if we let them.
Only 2 percent of high school seniors can correctly answer a question about the 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education ruling, according to a 2010 national assessment of educational progress exam.
That was only 57 years ago, a blink in history’s lengthy timeline.
Most of us are still dizzy from the effects of 9/11, even after a tumultuous decade that brought us a new president, the iPod, Hurricane Katrina and Bieber Fever.
We mourn just as we remember — some in anger, some in hope, some in numbness.
People declare, “never forget,” with flags waving and anthems trumpeting.
But what will those high school seniors remember 50 years from now — the ceremony or the circumstance?
Eventually, I pinned my mood to “hopeful” on that New York Times map.
I can’t help but be optimistic, despite widening divisions in our nation on all relationship levels — political, religious, economic, and educational.
Although the world seems like it’s about to tilt off its center, maybe it’s turning toward a better America, one in which tomorrow’s youth recognize and respect what shapes their present.
But someone needs to tell them, and the generations that follow them, why it’s important and necessary to remember in the first place.
Let’s not leave them to sort out an explanation for themselves as they bow their heads in a moment of silence.
That’s something no one should ever forget.