Five years ago my world changed. I look back five years later with a completely different view point… of the world around me but more importantly, of myself.
The collapse of the World Trade Center will be the defining moment of my generation as it currently stands. Moreso than the two Space Shuttle disasters. Moreso than Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Moreso than the death of John Lennon or Kurt Cobain. Moreso than mass murders in schools, bombings of government buildings, world leader assassination attempts, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters, banking debacles and other burst economic bubbles, the advent of AIDS, SARS and other diseases and so much else.
Not to trivialize any of these things and their impact on the younger Boomers, my own Gen X as well as the Millennials and to-be-named baby Gen Zs. I realize more people will die of HIV/AIDS in a year than we will lose from the terror attacks at the disease’s peaks and more people will die from gun inflicted tragedy (murder, suicide, accident) in any given month. I realize the residual affects of nuclear disaster fallout impact generations and that the sociological impact of cultural icon deaths can ripple past the impacted generation.
There’s something fundamentally different in nine-eleven than that of, say the Baby Boomer’s affliction from the JFK assassination (and subsequent assault of the Kennedy family with the murder of RFK) or that of the effects of, say, the Tet Offensive. It feels, from my naive interpretation, to hold a virtue closer to Pearl Harbor, Fort Sumpter, the Battle of Trenton and such. Again, not trying to trivialize past generational turning points, they all were important to their living members, but in my limited and still contorted understanding, it seems different.
I hardly would consider myself a sociologist, anthropologist, psycho-cultural scientist or other purveyor of the schema that defines groups of people. I understand marketing, which inherently touches on these but devoid of the typical research and unbiased peer review necessary to prove a point. I have my gut and some parallel examples, and my gut tells me even five years after the fact, it was beyond huge but in an ever changing communal mindset even the hyperbole of the terror attacks of five years ago won’t be enough to sustain them through my generation’s children, or my generation’s grandchildren the way other defining moments in the country (most notably, the bad ones seem to hold true longer than the good ones, but that’s a whole different conversation).
Collectively, we have a shorter memory. Our lives are moving quicker, we have more distractions and we’re more apt to respond in bursts of fits and flare than have the time and wherewithall to stop and effectively reflect and react as a group, nevermind as individuals.
I’ve decided in the last few years to keep a diary of my reflections of each of these moment as they happen on the important historical dates I can identify. Obviously, for myself, it will always be nine-eleven as one of the entries and I look forward to seeing how each year’s reflection differs. How the reactions are varied based on the events in my life and the world as they occur around the time. I believe, at least initially, a second date of importance will be that of Pearl Harbor. The initiation of the Second World War defined, at least in family folklore, my family’s being, for without it my grandmother and grandfather might not have wed and produced my father and his siblings as offspring and thus me and the future generations I hope to see from my cousins, sister and I. Beyond that, this will probably be an ongoing experiment in my writing.
It’s weird to think such a negative could spawn such a positive as the diary project, but I miss writing. I’ve done it in huge fits and bursts since high school that having the direction and foundation to do it again is important and the goal of regular writing, even that of once or twice a year seems both attainable and, in this case, noble enough. It will force me to dig through my scattered past wire bound notebooks for other thoughts as well as producing new ones and both will provide me with fascinating looks at who I was and who I see myself becoming.
We talk about Never Forget, the best way to never forget is to continue to pass the memory along. We all know time dulls and redefines memories so documenting those subtle changes year-to-year will help me strengthen both my ties to the moment and the greater understanding of those who read them later of that which defined me as a link in the grander chain of society./