Too young to ‘never forget’: Gen Z and 9/11

Christian Lohrenz ® Columnist |

I was two years old when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks caused the world to stop. That was 19 years ago. That being said, I grew up in an essentially post-9/11 world. 

Along with many students here on campus, I don’t remember where I was that day. That question is one that holds so much power in this day and age, as almost anyone from the millennial generation and older seem to know where they were and what they were doing when tragedy struck. I myself have heard numerous stories from individuals. 

I have had teachers talk about how classes stopped, and in some cases a TV was brought in and teachers and students alike watched as the towers fell. As we approach the nearest election cycle, it appears those like me who were too young to truly experience those horrific events may be in the majority of the eligible voting population.

The world has changed in many ways since 9/11. At first the initial wave of patriotism seemed overwhelming. From what I have since learned, the world seemed to stop and wonder. I’ve heard some of the most kind and sweet people I know say how much hatred they felt toward Osama Bin Laden in the days and months following the attacks. 

After visiting the 9/11 museum in New York, I saw firsthand the evidence of a world on edge. I heard the voices of those in the buildings calling their loved ones. I saw the ruins of vehicles crushed by debris. It was a truly humbling experience. I found it hard to avoid feeling angry toward those behind such tremendous loss of life.

While we as a country have never forgotten the events on 9/11, we have pressed forward with a seemingly different mindset. A new wave of fear for those of different racial and religious backgrounds or sexual orientations has been at the forefront of political discussion since 2001. 

“From what I have seen and heard, I know of lots of people who have seen their Muslim parents shave their beards or be attacked on buses because of their appearance,” said Madison Morrisey, a senior studying social studies education. “I don’t remember 9/11 because I was too young, but I want to vote because I feel like every person’s voice matters, and personally I want to see some change.”

After the 2016 election a demographic shift occurred in the eligible voting population. Many Gen Z’ers like me are now eligible to vote.

The 2016 election cycle, as polarizing and engaging as it was, seemed to have never ended. The Trump presidency has continued to widen the dialogue of politics as we know it.

The Pew Research Center found one in 10 eligible voters will be members of Gen Z. Statistically, younger people have been seen in the past to be much less likely to vote than older ones. However, with the growing divisiveness of American elections, one wonders: Will this fact spur members of Gen Z to vote in large numbers, or make many of us turn away?

Header photo: Mourners hug beside the names of the deceased Jesus Sanchez and Marianne MacFarlane at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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