9/11 has, of course, become a date ingrained in our memory. It was the day a younger generation of people finally understood what December 7th 1941 truly meant to our grandparents and our parents. Such epic tragedy seemed impossible to a collective who grew up on MTV and such innocuous yet fun family fare like the Cosby Show or the latest Steven Spielberg adventure.
Working in the financial district in Boston at the time, my window looked out upon the water and every morning I would watch the planes fly away and wish I was on one of them, off to some faraway adventure.
That week I was also working on a story about the upcoming middleweight title fight between Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad at Madison Square Garden. That’s why I got there early that morning, an hour at the computer by myself.
And then it happened, and we were all evacuated from the building onto a street filled with confused and panicky faces.
Just like that everything changed.
I had become fascinated with World War II in college. For me, and so many people my age, history was just that – words in a book or grainy films of atrocities that you wanted to believe didn’t happen anymore.
But the older you get, naiveté becomes a weakness rather than a shield.
The frustration people of the World War II generation, or the Greatest Generation as Tom Brokaw rather arrogantly dubbed it, felt and feel about those that followed has long been established. The idea Brokaw put forth, that his generation persevered and accomplished more than any other is debatable when all the history that came before and after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor is considered, but his adamant stance that this younger generation not only never learns from its mistakes but that it views history as school book learning to be forgotten once the class is passed is prescient. It was a frustration I often saw on not only teacher’s faces when I was a kid – a hockey player more concerned with listening to the White Album for the thousandth time than learning about Franklin Delano Roosevelt – but my parents as well.
That’s not to say that my mom and dad and those they grew up with weren’t any less shocked and heartbroken by the events of 9/11. But I always felt they understood and coped with it with much more stoicism and contemplative outrage, rather than the unmitigated shock and then, much too often, misplaced hatred that sprouted forth from so many after that terrible day.
They understood. We didn’t. But we do now.
9/11 belongs to all of us, but it was a day my generation finally connected with generations of the past and realized we don’t just have a few things in common with those who came before us; we have everything in common if we believe as passionately as they did in the tenants of the Constitution of the United States. Our connection with the past became more important than ever on that day and now that day is part of the past.
Let’s hope for the next generation it’s not just a date to be memorized in a classroom.
Contributed to the Masters Touch blog by Matthew Hurley.