On September 11, 2001, coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda killed approximately 3,000 people, injured 6,000, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructural damage. Images and videos of the World Trade Center being struck by two hijacked passenger airliners continue to haunt the memories of Americans today.
That is, all Americans except for Generation Z.
Generation Z is the newest generational cohort, comprising the preteen to early college age generation succeeding Millennials. To most living in the United States, the September 11 attacks mark a pivotal point in recent history, uniting the American population. As President George W. Bush’s approval rating soared to a whopping 90% after the attacks and police and rescue workers traveled across the nation to assist in alleviating the suffering of those afflicted, the country also began to ask itself new questions.
Generation Z has no memory of this. This generation has been defined by some sociologists as encompassing the generation of those born between 1997 and 2014; however, there is no universally accepted date range for “GenZenniels.” Despite the complex terminological landscape extent in the world of social studies, a multitude of organizations including marketing agencies such as Ernst & Young, Turner Broadcasting System, The Shand Group, together with bank firms and statistical studies, seem to indicate those born after 1997 can be rightly classified as “Generation Z.”
This, of course, means that the attacks coordinated on September 11, 2001, occurred when the oldest members of Generation Z were three or four years old, just learning how to speak. The national terror that swept over the American population on that day has been entirely unfelt by this newer demographic. Generation Z has never had their heart sink while watching the Twin Towers collapse. They have never experienced the frenzy of millions of citizens scrambling to ensure that their loved ones were safe.
General observations indicate that those born into this generation largely do not have any distinctive memories about the 9/11 terrorist attack, despite the event having such a momentous effect on the world they are born into.
However, Generation Z has been the only generation thus far to experience solely a post-9/11 America. Heightened suspension of non-Americans, increasingly aggressive foreign policy, and anti-terrorism legislation all mark the world inhabited by members of Generation Z, who are now reaching adulthood. Despite not experiencing the precursor to the modern situation in the United States, Generation Z has been molded by the political consequences.
The majority of those reading this article are familiar with 9/11 in a personal way. If you are a college graduate, then you can probably recall where you were at the moment the towers collapsed. It is interesting to observe the inter-generational differences when it comes to experiencing the September 11 attacks and living in a post-9/11 American culture.