Just a 15 year old high school sophmore waking up extra early for a big exam. The daily ritual was to turn on the tv and start getting ready for school. That morning was different. There wasn’t talk of traffic or the weather. There wasn’t talk of the direction of the Dow Jones. Instead there were images of a plane hitting a building. There were images of a hole in the side of the Pentagon.
It didn’t take long for me to realize what was going on. It was then that I frantically started calling my family. My cousin was at the time working as a flight attendant for United Airlines. I knew she had many flights around the New York area so that was the first person I thought of calling. No response. I called ten more times. No answer. I then called my grandmother, my uncle, and all of my aunts. Finally one of them answered and said my cousin was alright. She was in San Francisco and wasn’t working that day. I would find out later she did lose a friend.
The drive to school was quiet. The radio blared in the background as commentators tried to sort out the details. I don’t even remember fighting traffic. Everyone at school asked each other if they had seen the news, if they had seen the videos and pictures. I knew then my generation would be different.
We sat through the first few periods just watching the news. There were no lesson plans, there were no lectures. The exam, that was cancelled. Everyone sat there watching the screen, some crying, some silent, all of us touched.
They made an announcement that if anyone needed to see a grief councelor, one would be available. Being so far removed from the events, I don’t think any of us thought a councelor would matter. Everyone knew the significance of the event, but at the same time, there was a sense of numbness, 8,000 miles will do that to a person.
Looking back, there are many things I have taken away from the months following that tragic day: America is a proud nation with a strong and hard-working people. We persevere through the hard times and always come out stronger and more willing to help others. In times of extreme circumstances, people will always help others, even if it may not be the best thing for themselves.
Ultimately, there is one major thing that I have learned. This generation, my generation, has been thrown obstacle after obstacle. We witnessed the attack on America, we witnessed the economy crash, we witnessed two wars and thousands of lives lost overseas. The amazing thing? We are still the most upbeat, optimistic, and forward thinking generation. We elected the first African-American President. We created Facebook, Twitter, and just about every social networking site. We are becoming the doctors, lawyers, and politicians who care more about helping others than ourselves.
WE are the new Greatest Generation. This country is in good hands. My generation is stepping up to the plate and taking ownership. We have seen the depths that this country can hit and we have seen how great this country can be. There is no doubt in my mind that we are the generation which will change America for the better. We will not fail, we can not fail.
I challenge every single person of my generation and invoke the message of John F. Kennedy:
ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU, BUT WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY.