Every generation of Americans has had a crisis, whether it be war or natural disaster, that has helped define it. This generation is no different. The Millennials, now entering the workforce, were forever shaped by the events of 9/11.
Many experts who study characteristics of generations have labeled the Millennials as a generation that is more family and team oriented, less worried about financial gain, and less comfortable with taking risks than the Generation X that came before it. According to a poll released by the Brookings Institution this year, 60 percent of young people say the United States is too involved in global affairs, and 80 percent say they can’t foresee a future without the threat of terrorism.
Would the MIllennials have turned out the same way without having experienced the terror attacks as children between the ages of 8 and 19? Possibly. However, after seeing hundreds of young people celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden in May, it’s easy to see that the attacks had a real, long, and lasting impact on this generation.
Sabina Page, 24
I was in middle school, and I remember sitting in my algebra class while my teacher was going over homework questions on the overhead projector. When an announcement came on over the loud speakers that there had been a terrorist attack I was scared and very confused.
“I didn't know what that meant. I became really nervous about my family, because they were working in D.C. at the time. I was really nervous and really confused,” Page told The Christian Post.
Page is a recent graduate of Virginia Tech and current medical student in Germany and says the attacks altered her sense of security in her own country.
“I never imagined that people could be so cruel. Even now, 10 years later, I still think back on it, and pray for those who lost their loved ones on that day.”
Page also believes that a future without terrorism is unlikely and that the United States is still vulnerable; there will always be people who are enemies of the Western lifestyle and Western beliefs.
In her opinion, the United States overextends itself, which may lead to problems.
“I do think we take on too much global responsibility. These groups should settle their own problems, and we shouldn't get so involved with their issues.”
Patrick Bramell, 24
I was in 8th grade taking an exam in my English class. We had a particularly quirky teacher who was a real joker. At first he came in and explained that terrorists had hijacked a plane and crashed it into the World Trade Center buildings in New York. My initial reaction was disbelief because our teacher was [was such a jokester]. But after a few minutes we went next door to the History class where it was playing on television.
“At that age I wasn't really aware of how significant the attacks were,” Bramell said. “I just knew that something needed to be done in retaliation.”
Bramell is a current student at Marian University where he is enrolled in the Army ROTC program. He plans to become an Army officer upon graduating.
According to Bramell, the attacks had no initial impact on him. However, when he started to mature he felt a greater sense of pride in the United States and felt a responsibility as a citizen to defend his country. This ultimately led him to the Army where he hopes to be able to serve and protect his fellow citizens.
Like Page, Bramell sees terrorism as forever being a problem.
“There will always be people that do not agree with different beliefs and who will go to extremes to be heard.”
“Up until the attacks I knew nothing of terrorist attacks or that other countries did not like the U.S. I lived in a free nation and just assumed it was like that all over the world. Experiencing this and growing up now I have a better grasp on the concept of living in a free nation.”
Over the last 10 years, however, he said his view on the United States has changed perhaps for the worse.
“We've gone from a nation that in a time of need, we acted, to a nation that wants [things] to be done for us. Nobody is tough anymore, and events such as this are used as a crutch almost.”
“Whole empires before us came and fell and the world continued on. We should be the symbol of overcoming adversity and an example that no matter what we will drive on.”
Like Page, Bramell also believes the United States takes on too much global responsibility.
“That being said though, it is a task that needs to be taken on and we are best suited for it. Everyone talks about doing something or thinking about helping another person. We are out there doing it, living what others only hope to do.”
“If wanting to help other nations get on their feet and free from tyranny is a crime, I'm guilty.”
Savail Majid, 29
For Majid, a recent law graduate from George Washington University, the aftermath of 9/11 affected the way he viewed his government as well as strengthened his sense of community among his fellow Muslims.
It was the middle of the night when United States Marshalls unexpectedly visited my home in Indianapolis and interrogated my family at length regarding a recent trip they had taken to Pakistan. My parents are Americans, had done nothing more than visit family and friends back home, and yet they were treated like criminals.
“I’m proud to be an American,” Majid said, “but I felt like the Muslim community was marginalized after the attacks.”
He continued to say that the feeling of being marginalized helped young American Muslims engage the community more than the previous generation did.
“A lot of younger Muslims are becoming more interested in law and politics. They are more communal and try to help society by being engaged civically. We want the community to understand us as Muslims and we are trying to do that.”
Majid goes on to say that he is proud of how his country has grown since the attacks.
“[The attacks] had a positive outcome for our foreign policy in the sense that we are trying to interrogate a lot more. Instead of just trying to get revenge like we did initially, we are engaging societies so that we can prevent those kinds of attacks again.”
Before 9/11 “everyone was naïve. We all thought everyone loves Americans. After the attacks we began to understand that what our government does in other countries has implications.”
“I see myself as an American and right after the attacks everyone was trying to come to grasp with our new place in the world. The Muslim community was just as shocked.”
However, “[America] acted better than a lot of other countries would have. Here we have a lot of freedoms. It makes you proud to be here. We really are a great country. We stand behind the principles we profess. We make mistakes, but no one is perfect.”