Last generation, this question referred to when JFK was shot. Our generation, it refers to the morning of 9/11.
9/11 was memorable for everyone, but I think it has a special significance for kids my age. First of all, specifically to people my age, it was the first year of college. You're away from home, and deal with a national tragedy with people you just met, since it was the first or second week of college. Second, this changed the entire meaning of joining the military. I knew a lot of people who joined the military after graduating from high school, thinking war was never going to happen in this country. They were the first ones to be deployed. The first couple of kids you saw in the newspapers, the 18-19 year-olds that were dying, those were kids like me. Kids after my year had a new prospective about what it meant to join the ranks, and it changed the whole process forever.
9/11 was the start of the second week of college. I was asleep on the top bunk, when one of the girls in my hall burst into our room yelling, "New York's been bombed!" It was so early in the morning, and I had spent the night before chatting it up in the hallway, like a normal college student. I thought it was a dream, so I fell back asleep. 15 minutes later, I felt a buzz in the entire hallway, and I got up. I saw that people were crowded around a small TV and saw the image of the plane crashing into the second tower. My roommate, who was from New York, was freaking out. I didn't know what to do, so I went to class. Our professor debriefed us a little bit about what was happening and dismissed us. I called my family, just because. Then the rest of the day was just sitting down and talking to a bunch of people I barely knew.
At the end of the day, I wrote an email to my friends, and got the sweetest responses I had ever received in my life. It's a pretty naive and cheesey email, but I do cherish it as an evidence of how young people may react when they don't know what else to do. Here it is:
My roommates and I were having a long talk of what happened today...actually yesterday. (Its 1 am in the morning) Truthfully, I hate hearing about it now because its just too depressing, but it reminded me again of how life really is short and you really don't know what's going to happen. That phrase has become somewhat of a cliché, but I don't think I've heard of a more truthful one. Thousands of people have lost their family and friends in just one day. Thousands of people woke up this morning to lead their normal lives, and died. This country has lost more people today than it has in its entire history in just one day. Life is full of surprises and there really is no way to prepare for them, which makes it even more precious.
The purpose of this e-mail is just to tell you people how much I love you all, and how thankful I am that you people are still with me today. I don't care if you think I'm being too corny...That's a lot better than to lose you all without telling you guys how much you all mean to me. You guys are the reason why I am who I am, and I love you guys very much. Very very very much! Take care of yourself, and remember that there's at least one person in this frightening world that will cry for you, that will do anything for your safety and happiness. Again, I love you guys, and please take advantage of the life that you still have.
Anyway, may the memory live on, and the nightmare that has occurred because of this day be resolved as soon as possible.