Editor’s Note: 9/11 Editorial Content
"Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”
So begins Joan Didion’s 2004 memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, an attempt to make sense of the year in which she lost both her husband and her daughter. To be sure, Didion’s memoir grapples with epoch-altering events in the life of just one individual, but it also speaks to the immediacy, the inexplicability, and the finality of a recent epoch-altering event in the lives of all Americans and countless others across the world.
This event, of course, is “9/11,” when, ten years ago yesterday, four hijacked jets took nearly 3,000 lives and, in the process, destroyed the Twin Towers in New York City and parts of the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. A decade later, it is not an overstatement to say that the events of Sept. 11, 2001 have, in a sense, transformed the past ten years of American life. This country has gone to war not once, but twice in those years, and the memories of that day continue to inflame some of the best and worst tendencies of the American psyche: patriotism and solidarity on the one hand; bigotry and hawkishness on the other.
In our perspective, however, one of the most visible transformations 9/11 made on the country was on our generation, children who grew up in the relatively placid 1990s, and who—in at least some sense—lost their innocence on the same day, Sept. 11, 2001, after which nothing has ever quite been the same. To return to Didion: “You sit down to dinner”—or, in our case, perhaps arrive at school one bright fall morning—“and life as you know it ends.”
For the young people of this country, it seems fair to say that the last ten years have been a time of struggling to come to terms with the memory of that fateful day and everything that has transpired since. However, in the coming ten years, we have faith in the potential of these common memories to unite, to motivate, and to inspire. At a time when the United States is undergoing drastic transformation in almost every imaginable way, we can only hope that the next ten years will show a generation united by these memories and, for the sake of honoring them, committed to bettering their country and themselves.
In the meantime, however, we remember the victims of 9/11 and the terror and confusion of the last ten years. To that end, we have selected here a number of opinion pieces that, we hope, speak to at least a small portion of the memorable experiences and salient issues to have come out of that day.