Today is the eighth anniversary of “the events” of September 11, 2001. To commemorate it (them?), I took part in a little pool of essays at the New York Times‘s Happy Days blog. My contribution is short, repeated here in its entirety:
Raised up by parents and teachers of the 1960s, and grandparents who brushed against World War II, I always wondered what crisis and heroism would define my generation after its childhood in the in-between simmer of the ’90s. When my answer came, I was 17, at the start of my last year in high school, and close enough to the Pentagon to see the smoke towering out from it.
What my friends and I did that night, more quiet and focused than ever, was play our usual game of tag in the dark, on the comfortable fields around our school. That night, as on others, a police car came down into the parking lot. I won’t ever forget the image of us standing under a light, talking with the officer in stunted phrases, hushed in deference to the state of exception that had come and left the ordinary rules in question.
He didn’t make us leave, as the cops normally did. He drove away. Perhaps he recognized the mystery at work in us, which we ourselves couldn’t be sure of, by which we were somehow, in playing, planning our next move as a generation, planning the future of the world, and we should not be bothered.
I leave out what has happened since. Too much. So far, my generation has allowed our youth to be defined by two endless wars with little obvious effect at home and spiraling greed unto economic collapse; we have not raised our voices significantly, except for the occasional pop star, aided by microphones. We’ve spent a lot of time on the internet. Maybe my friends and I shouldn’t have been playing that night. Maybe we should have been, really, planning.
Read the other essays over at Happy Days.