Will 9/11 Be the Defining Moment of My Generation?

From time to time journalists and producers contact me for feedback on stories they’re working on. I’ve worked regularly with my local paper, for example, the San Francisco Chronicle, on a variety of issues they’re thinking about, from unhealthy school diets in cafeterias to the impact of blogs on their business.

Michelle Melendez, a journalist at Newhouse News Service, a wire service whose articles run in several dozen papers in the midwest and south, recently talked to youth about the lasting effect of 9/11 on my generation. In this piece I pop up once and say 9/11 won’t have as lasting effect as "emerging technologies." Indeed.

Pearl Harbor stamped "the Greatest Generation," the Kennedy assassination marked the baby boomers. Were the terrorist attacks five years ago such a moment for Generation Y?

As Sept. 11, 2001, nears another anniversary, America’s rising youth — together with the scholars and marketers who study them — are pondering its impact on attitudes and outlooks….

Ben Casnocha, 18, of San Francisco, said Sept. 11 has had little lasting impact on his generation beyond inconvenience at airports: "On a day-to-day basis, if you didn’t have someone who you knew who got killed on that day, I don’t think it affects us as much as something like emerging technologies or other things."

8 comments on “Will 9/11 Be the Defining Moment of My Generation?
  • Yep. It will be a defining moment for a generation: the moment when terrorism as a global phenomena became starkly real. No doubt about it.

    It seems as though there’s a “defining moment” every 20-30 years– a moment (event) the indelibly marks its observers. This is not necessarily a bad (or good) thing; it just is.

    As for the proliferation of “technolgy” as defining– sorry– technology has been proliferating, albeit with increasing speed, since the invention of the wheel. Having said that, the widespread popular adoption of the Internet (like the earlier widespread adoption of the telegraph and radio) will certainly be noteworthy.

  • 9/11 is no doubt the defining moment.

    The way you can determine any defining moment is that people always know exactly where they were when it happened.

    Ask any Greatest Generationer and they know exactly where they were when Pearl Harbor happened.

    The same with Baby Boomers and the Kennedy Assasination.

    And I do not know of anyone who can’t tell you exactly where they were when 9/11 happened or when they heard about it.

    That to me is a defining moment.

  • There’s no question that 9/11 is an important moment, whether it will be the defining moment of my generation…well, it’s too early to tell.

    Do defining moments necessarily have a lasting impact on a generation? Did the Kennedy Assasination change the everyday lives of people, or do people just remember exactly where they were?

    I remember where I was on 9/11, but that event does not affect my life in any meaningful way.

  • Yes… I do think the Kennedy Assasignation changed a great deal It was the beginning of the end of the way American’s the country and the government.

    I also think 9/11 has had a great effect on America and its view of its place in the world.

    In 20 to 30 years, something else will happen and a new “tipping moment” will happen.

  • Ben,

    What does it mean to have that event be the defining moment?

    Assuming perhaps that it means it’s a momentous occurence that shaped the way your generation moved(s) forward:

    Does that mean the generation identifies itself with venomous gruop think that led us blindly into a war that isn’t winnable?

    Does that mean the generation identifies itself as a long list of generations (mine included) that still doesn’t get that hostility is not a means to any enduring peaceful and prosperous end?

    Does that mean the generation identifies itself with quite possibly the worst president ever who, regardless of his performance, is exactly who we chose?

    Does that mean that the generation defines itself as one that apparently, saw evil and perpetuated that evil?

    What it almost certainly means is that your generations defining moment (and in some way mine too or maybe it’s both of ours, I’m not sure how a generation is actually defined) is deeply and undeniably steeped in fear.

    I cringe when I think of defining moments in particular even coming close to drawing any parallels between Pearl Harbor and 9/11 they were different. I may be more open to looking at how we responded to these acts both with even greater violence outwardly and deeper and more venomous division a bit more carefully (profiling, etc.).

    Your generation has a lot more stuff to come. I would love to see your generation choose it’s defnining moment rather than have it chosen for you.

    I see it regularly that those who choose it for you do it because they had it chosen for them.

    At the risk of sounding like Chevy Chase in Caddyshack “Ma, Ma, Make your future. Make your future Ben, I’m a veg.”


  • Tim brings up a good point that “defining moment” must be defined before determining whether 9/11 can be considered one.

    It seems TK defined it as any moment in which people remember where they were when the moment occured. I think that might be overbroad, though, because there are important moments people remember, which may not be defining.

    Then again, perhaps defining is the equivalent to important. I tend to believe it means something more, but that’s just an opinion.

  • Eh, I really don’t care at all about 9/11. What’s the deal with all the inefficient, expensive airport security?

  • But 9/11 did change our generation. We are now a nation, a people caught in what seems to be inescapable fear. Falling from the last remaining world power to “nation on the brink of destruction” says our President at least, though of course not in those terms.

    9/11 has changed the way politicians today think they can play the game. It has caused a “fog of fear” to envelop the nation. It has allowed the government to get away with more than almost any other administration in the past.

    Defining moment of our generation? For the now. The real defining moment? When we raise up and say we won’t take this severe abuse of our intelligence, and above all of our democracy any longer. That will define us.

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