By the Gatepost Editorial Board
Last Saturday marked 20 years since Sept. 11, 2001 – a day that changed the world forever.
Gen Z students who populate college campuses in 2021, for the most part, hadn’t even been born at the time of the attacks on the United States. Even those of us who were alive were too young to remember anything from that day.
Our memory of 9/11 is not of one singular day, but rather, the aftermath spanning years and years.
The drastic but necessary increased security measures across the country.
The disgusting Islamophobia against Muslims and the heightened racism that followed the attacks.
The unwavering fear of the constant unknown.
We are constantly told to “never forget,” but how can we forget something we never knew?
Though we do not have first-hand trauma from the events that occurred on 9/11, we suffer from their lasting effects.
This generation is still processing the inherited grief of 9/11.
We are trying to fathom that infamous day by comparing it to traumatic events in our own memory.
We are still processing and still rebuilding.
We remember the Sandy Hook Shooting.
We remember the Boston Marathon Bombing.
We remember the Parkland Shooting.
We have been forced to become hypervigilant and fearful – fearful of large crowds, of going to sporting events, of traveling, even of going to school.
That anxiety has constantly been fueled by the “War on Terror” – which former President George W. Bush announced in the days following 9/11.
Those battles have dragged on throughout our entire lives, playing out in foreign theatres of war, and we don’t even know why they’re being fought anymore.
The only time our generation can remember when the U.S. was not actively fighting a war has been the past three weeks.
Even though President Joe Biden withdrew troops from Afghanistan at the end of last month, that doesn’t mean the “War on Terror” has ended.
It remains omnipresent in our memories – unerasable and permanently etched in our minds. We cannot perceive a world without fighting and terrorism.
The “War on Terror” was America’s longest war. Thousands of American service members have been killed in the war since it began in 2001.
Most recently, thirteen soldiers were killed in an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 26.
Five of these soldiers were only 20 years old.
These young soldiers were fighting a war that started before they were born. Their untimely deaths were unfair because they made the ultimate sacrifice defending a notion they were told was important – not one contrived from their own beliefs.
Without context, the war is meaningless to us.
Neither 9/11 nor the “War on Terror” are events our generation can process.
Our generation is frustrated because we don’t share the horrible, awful, painful memories of our elders that haunt them on a level deeper than we can imagine.
We are frustrated with the complexity of our grief and the fear that remains post-war.
Processing our grief and trauma will grant us peace within ourselves and with others – but is that guaranteed?
We want peace of mind and freedom from fear. We want to fully grasp what happened on 9/11 so we can mentally rationalize the existence of the “War on Terror.”
But we can’t.
We can’t find out why because there are no answers in the first place. Nobody can answer all the questions about 9/11. So much will remain a mystery, even to those who saw the hijacked planes disintegrate in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
Therefore, we will continue our attempts at processing the terrifying events taking place throughout the country.
We cannot forget any of these tragedies if we can’t process them and we will continue living on in fear of what may happen next.
Without a way to process, our grief will always haunt us – ghosts of each passing tragedy.