9/11: Through the Lens of GenZ

By Caleb N. Messenger

September 11, 2021

Twenty years ago today, In the span of just a few hours, almost 3,000 people died, over 6,000 were injured, and many more were forever affected by the loss of family members, friends, and loved ones.  The worst terrorist attack on American soil left a permanent scar on our Nation and changed the landscape of the global perspective on terrorism.

Almost every adult can tell you where they were when terrorists hijacked four planes and crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the fields of Shanksville, PA.  They will always have that memory of knowing their exact location and the panic, the shock, and the fear they felt.  

I don’t have any of those memories.  I can’t tell you where I was on that day because I hadn’t been born.  In fact, the majority of Generation Z (born 1997-2012) can’t tell you where they were on 9/11 because they hadn’t been born either. 

So, what does this hallowed day mean to us? 

Every year we recount this tragedy in school.  We hear the stories, and we see the pictures.  We listen to the recordings of people in the towers saying how they wouldn’t make it out along with the heart-wrenching goodbyes to their loved ones.  

We watch videos of people jumping out of the windows of the World Trade Center, choosing to fall hundreds of feet to their deaths rather than being burnt alive by the flames.  

We learn about the surviving heroes—the firemen, policemen, and other rescue personnel that responded to the attack that day along with those who ran back into the buildings again and again to save one more person even after the first tower collapsed.

And we hear about the heroes who were killed trying to save others when the second building finally fell.  

We listen to stories about the military in the Pentagon, who rushed into the fire to save their fellow service members. 

We learn about the passengers of Flight 93, who, after hearing news of the other attacks, decided to rush the cockpit to try to regain control of the plane, ultimately losing their lives in the attempt.  

We hear and see all these things about something that happened twenty years ago, just a few short years before many of our lives began. 

Please know, 9/11 means something to us.  We understand.  It’s just not a story, or a list of facts in a history textbook.  It’s real, and it means everything.

Remembrance of 9/11 for us reflects the tremendous respect and admiration for all the sacrifices made by the American hero, personified by rescue personnel and the passengers of Flight 93.  It means sympathy and a deep sadness for those who lost family members or loved ones during the attacks or in the aftermath.  

It means inspiration because of the bravery of those whose story we know, and even from those miraculous and mysterious stories that are still untold.  They live on in the haunted memories of people who suffer deep-seated trauma from one unparalleled day of terror and grief.  

It also means an appreciation for those who dealt with the aftermath over the last twenty years whether military, government, or private citizens whose futures were fundamentally altered by this day’s tragic events.

9/11 happened before we were born, and we might not be able to tell the story of where we were that day, or how we felt. However, we have also been impacted by it—by the tragedies, the sacrifice, the bravery, the courage, and from everything that happened on that day.

This one event left a lasting effect on so many people, even those that weren’t born yet, and it will continue to affect many more as the years go by.

Today I hope we are all able to take a few moments from our busy lives to continue to reflect on everything that happened twenty years ago. It is also important to consider the impact that single day had on us personally, whether that be the loss of someone you still hold very dear or the inspiration and deep respect we’ve all gained from the acts of heroism that day.

9/11 has impacted us all, forever. 


Caleb Messenger, native of New Jersey, is a High School Senior, Class President, varsity athlete, award-winning writer, and scholar. He is one of thousands of young men and women who will take up the torch of leadership in America, and is well prepared to do so.

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