Every generation has an event that galvanizes it. Defines it. A “signature” event so to speak.
Some are good; most are bad. The Depression. The Attack on Pearl Harbor. The Kennedy assassination. Martin Luther King are but a few of the more notable tragedies. People can often tell you exactly what they were doing when the key event of their generation happened. Folks will tell you exactly what they were doing when they heard that Kennedy was shot, or when John Lennon was killed. Events of such magnitude are etched into the very fabric of our being, and literally define a generation.
My generation has been (un)lucky enough to have more than our share of defining moments, but there are two that stand out: Challenger and 9/11.
I was in high school when the Challenger exploded in January 1986. I remember where I was and what I was doing as if it were yesterday, and yet it’s been 25 years. I was in my high school library, studying for an exam. English, I think. I recall that the sole TV in the library was tuned to CNN to show the launch. I looked up just as the shuttle lifted off, and watched in horror as it exploded a minute later.
Yet, as significant an event as Challenger was, I think the most defining moment of my generation has to be the attacks on 9/11.
At the time, I was working for a large insurance company as an auditor. That particular week, I was in Fayetteville, NC auditing one of our claims offices. For those of you who don’t know, Fayetteville is home to the Army’s Fort Bragg – one of the largest military installations in the country, and home to the famed Green Berets. I had just walked into the office that morning, Starbucks coffee and scone in hand, when I got a call on my phone from a co-worker who had heard the news. We turned the TV on, and the entire office crowded into the conference room to watch the news. We all saw the second plane hit the tower.
It was as if a dark cloud descended upon us. Shock. Disbelief. Fear.
I still recall that day, the feelings and emotions, the fear, the uncertainty.
Yes, the attacks on 9/11 are the most memorable tragedy of my generation. I’ll forever be able to say exactly where I was and what I was doing when it happened. What about you? Where were you and what were you doing when you learned about 9/11?