Post-9/11 Children

Posted: September 11, 2007 in Uncategorized

Today, the blogosphere will be teeming with 9/11 reminiscing, warnings, fears of repeat terrorism, etc. Many of them will be more eloquent than I can be at this time of night, with the limited time I have before I punkinate for what surely will be a restless night, so I won’t add my own long-winded post to those millions, though I am with them in spirit.

Instead, I wanted to leave you with this thought as you make your way through your day today: As we lay our emotions bare today, and roller-coast our way through our feelings, take a moment to think about how profoundly 9/11 changed the lives of our children, and their children. My generation — the lost generation between the Boomers and GenX — we grew up without fear. The Cold War was all but over, sex wasn’t yet dangerous, and drug use appeared to be waning. We got our educations in relatively safe universities, then went to work early and earnestly in our relatively safe jobs, and came home to our relatively safe homes and families.

Our generation’s kids can’t understand that life, and no wonder. They practically get X-rayed and strip-searched just to go to school. They can’t even speak freely any more, for fear of being labeled a troublemaker, with any number of sanctions aimed at them. Firecrackers exploding outside our houses, cars backfiring as they drive by, drunk college kids shouting in a foreign language at midnight — all of these cause our kids to cringe and duck to safety instinctively. They’re afraid to travel. They’re trying their best to re-imagine the job market so it doesn’t involve physical interaction with others.

It will never be the same again.

Oh, sure, there are those that say we should just forget, that we should just move on. We have moved on — but we will not forget. That’s just naive to think we will. Have the Jews forgotten about Nazi Germany? Of course not. Have the Japanese forgotten about Hiroshima? Of course not. Will we — should we — forget about 9/11? Of course not!

But we need to better understand and prepare ourselves for the effects on our children’s lives. That I don’t think we’ve done very well. As a society, we’ve simply put together makeshift knee-jerk policies and procedures each time some wack-job comes up with a new reaction to 9/11, like cowardly shooting a bunch of innocent school kids, or cowardly blowing up a bunch of innocent commuters, or … well, cowardly killing a bunch of innocent people.

Those policies and procedures are simply masking our real fear, though, which is that the safety and well-being of our children has been threatened. Unfortunately, we’re reacting with blinders on, and we need to stop doing that if we really want to protect our children.

A few years back, it became “in” to “baby-proof” our homes, in the calm hope that it would protect our children. Of course, this was short-sighted, as it presumed our children would never go anywhere that wasn’t also “baby-proofed” — a foolish presumption if we aren’t raising hermits. For some reason, we turned our backs on the generations-old practice of simply “baby-proofing” our babies — teaching them not to drink bleach, or poke power sockets with paper clips, or run on slippery surfaces with scissors. Our ancestors’ policy protected our children just as well, but allowed us to visit our friends, too.

We’ve been trying to terror-proof our children’s environments, and it will fail just as miserably as the “baby-proofing” trend. We need to terror-proof our children, and that starts with admitting that they’re affected already, and that their lives will never be as carefree as ours were before 9/11. Only then will they be able to function normally; only then will they be able to forget their fears and live.


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