I was trying to wrap my mind around this thought, this morning. There are people walking and talking—pre-teens—who didn’t see the planes hitting the buildings live. Who didn’t feel the terror and horror of those moments; who don’t know the confusion and chaos of that day.
Just like for me as a toddler, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. getting murdered is something major that happened while I was alive, but too young to really remember anything about it. Coincidentally, that’s the same year construction started on the Twin Towers, also known as the World Trade Center. With the exception of my father who moved to NY as an adult, my immediate family are all New York-born (although in different boroughs). My mother, father and oldest brother all remember New York without the Twin Towers. For me they were always part of the NY skyline.
For those aged 12 and under, September 11 is history. It’s as distant as the Space Shuttle Challenger or even Columbia blowing up and killing everyone on board. It’s like any other event they read about in a social studies book and that “those old people” talk about sadly, fearfully. Their New York skyline is a lot closer to the one my mother grew up with instead of the one I did.
They don’t know what airplane travel was like before Sept. 11.
They will never experience the pleasure of flying. There’s no luxurious seating or meals in coach class. No, glamourous, romantic reunions right at the gate. Or romantic chases through the airport to stop the love of your life from leaving. Try to chase your love to the gate and see how fast the TSA is on you. For romance, there’s only a sweaty reunion at the car pickup line or baggage claim after you’ve schlepped across the airport because the tram and the moving sidewalks were broken.
They won’t miss it, because they’ve never known it. For them, it’s always been long lines, being frisked, x-rayed and taking off your shoes to walk over nasty floors. Then being fed peanuts and a half can of soda or juice while sitting jammed in what amounts to a flying sardine can on trips within the US.
We think about safety in terms of cost to privacy and personal rights. They don’t have that frame of reference. They arrived into a world where there really is no privacy. And, a land that is no longer perceived as safe from a direct attack from another country. That is their normal.