September 11: waking up a generation to terrorism (The JC)

It was Tuesday afternoon and school was out. It had been an odd day. We’d had some kind of ‘skills workshop’, with the positive outcome that I had no homework. My sister drove us home, music blaring.

As we pulled up, my mum was on the doorstep, a concerned expression on her face. “They’ve hit the Twin Towers,” she said.

I should have been more shocked. I was, later, when I’d watched the looping footage of the buildings collapsing, or people jumping from burning floors without a hope of survival. I woke up even more to what had happened the following month when I visited New York for the first time and saw smoking metal being transported away from Ground Zero and missing person posters staring hopelessly across the city.

But I was 14, more interested in who was at number one in the charts than the number one news story. I didn’t have any context for what had just happened.

There were people who hated us – it turned out quite a few

I knew about terrorism but mostly in the context of Israel, where the Second Intifada had been waging for a year. But Israel was the exception, the only place I went or knew people where such things were real.

New York – America – was an exciting place I wanted to visit, not somewhere despised by the non-Western world. War happened in other places. News only occurred in isolated events and really terrible things were consigned to history.

For my generation – the millenials, the kids born in the 1980s – 9/11 was a turning point. Before, our worlds were largely about hope; we’d only experienced peace. Wide-scale tragedy was famine or earthquakes. Things happened because of natural disaster or poverty, not the deliberate actions of man.

This comment piece was first published in The Jewish Chronicle. Read the rest of it here.

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