On the eighth remembrance of the events on 9/11 in the U.S., I note in passing that the times are changing. It would be so easy to just say, "Well, it's a new Administration and...", but that's not it. It's the eight years.
Realize that a typical age for a college freshman is eighteen. 18 - 8 = 10. Ten years old is about fifth grade. So today's freshman might've been in elementary school on 11 September 2001. While I was a pretty aware ten year old, I freely admit that I am weird and an outlier. The impact of that day's events on them would've been, I think, more about seeing the worry on the faces of the adults.
How many fifth graders would've notice how empty and quiet the skies got in the couple of days after 9/11?
I have a clear memory of Eisenhower giving a speech on television. I apparently pointed at the screen and declared, "I like Ike," which got a lot of amusement at the time. This had to have been 1960, when I was two. It is more typical, I am told, to have clear memories of events when one is three or four. 2 + 8 = 10. 4 + 8 = 12. Children who were just aware of the world around them are now finishing elementary school and are in middle school.
Because of the impact of the day's events on schools, this cohort differs from the rest of the elementary school children, who grew up or were born in a post-9/11 world. This latter group has always lived with excessive airport screen procedures and lived with a Department of Homeland Security -- an organization whose purpose I understand, but whose name still makes me uncomfortable.
The memories of 9/11 have softened and faded somewhat, jarred back into reality if one sees a really good 9/11 documentary. Quite a number have shown up on cable in the last week, but surprisingly, a quick scan of channels around 1pm EDT showed only the History Channel showing a line-up of 9/11 shows. It is interesting to me that I can still learn things about the events of that day -- one show documented the calls made by the flight attendants on American Flight 11, essentially the first salvo of a new war. A second documentary showing pictures from Ground Zero in New York brought back the apocalyptic hell-on-earth nightmare of the scene deep into the collapse and debris zones. How does an aluminum street light manage to stand upright and seemingly undisturbed in the same frame as the starkly unreal peeled metal bark of one of the World Trade Center towers?
The other thing about the post-9/11 world of 2009 is that I still see a great deal of respect and honor paid to fire fighters, soldiers and, to what I think is a lesser extent, police officers. In the last few years I've had a lot of my students at WMU either in ROTC, National Guard or having just returned from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one blinks when a trio of students comes into a lecture hall wearing digital camouflage fatigues or a uniform and jacket over shirt and tie. High-and-tight haircuts on men, whether in the service or not, are as mainstream as any other hair style.
Meanwhile the rest of the channels go on with TV judge shows, soap operas, sports events, reruns of comedy and reality shows, etc. As it should be, probably, recognizing that life goes on. Others may spout and vent about the sacrilege of this tragic day, but it will continue to be a generational thing. A where-were-you-on-9/11 thing. A defining moment thing. And eventually just a faded memory thing, like Appomattox or Flanders Fields or Bastogne or Desert One.
Of course on this eighth remembrance of 9/11, we still have considerable troops in the fields and have not neutralized the threats against us completely -- and perhaps never will. Hate is a commodity which can circulate with great rapidity and raining down destruction on civilians is a favorite tactic/pastime of too much of the world's violent minority of haters.
The world exists, as it has for several years, in an odd mixed quantum state of peace and war. I am not so naive as to believe that the terrorists have been stopped and will never attack us again. But Tuesday 11 September 2001 dawned as a beautiful blue sky day over much of the United States, and continued so even into the afternoon. Even after our world had changed forever.