I prompted my students to write about 9/11 today, to share their thoughts and memories on this fifth anniversary. Now juniors, they were middle schoolers then, shaken out of ignorance by hours of intense footage of the towers' destruction, the crashes in D.C. and Pennsylvania, the gaping maw that opened up in the New York skyline--then, later, the flags, the firefighters, the fallen.
"I didn't even know where the World Trade Center was," said a few. "I didn't know anyone, didn't feel anything." Others recounted their helpless panic as the teachers around them, suddenly somber, abandoned lesson plans to talk, to watch television, to reassure those who weren't sure what they were scared of.
This is the 9/11 generation, for whom war is immediately distant, for whom the threat of terrorism is both equally real and unreal. I suppose it's not so different for me, a child of Gulf War I and the Oklahoma City bombing, always watching tragedy from the outside.