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Cooke Kittredge: Growing Up In A Post-Sept. 11 World

Most of us can remember times in our childhood when things at home weren’t going well, when the ambient air was charged with electricity and discord and we knew things were out of whack. For others, the disharmony wasn’t noticeable because friction was the norm and moments of tranquility were, sadly, greeted with suspicion and distrust.

As we mark the fifteenth anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, I’m aware that an entire generation has grown up in a charged environment, raised by parents, schools, towns, cities and a country that to some extent have been on alert for fifteen years. Some kids are old enough to recall, if vaguely, the acute upset of that fateful September day, for others the aftermath has been far too personal, fraught with loss and illness, sorrow and grief. But whether our teenagers have specific memories of Sept. 11 or not, they are, nevertheless, victims of the devastation in subtle ways we may not understand for years.

They may not even be aware of this, since it’s just regular life to them. Alerts at airports going from orange to red, terrorist attacks in Europe, splinter strikes here at home, spurred by, inspired by, indeed charged by fury and vengeance. It’s heartbreaking to think our kids accept this as normal.

Or do they? Might it be that in their own way they’re uniting and standing against a world that seeks to divide and distance, alienate, and attack? I’ve long been dismayed by the amount of time people spend staring at screens, talking on phones, messaging and Snapchatting. There’s a lot to be said against this, but in a world where the air is charged with friction, I wonder if this isn’t their own quiet rebellion against all that seeks to separate us. They’re masters of sharing, weaving across this country an invisible fabric, an invisible net, of connection, making friends, sending photos, messaging, not losing touch.

I don’t mean to disregard the destructive elements of digital obsession, but on this day, this sobering anniversary, as we remember all that went wrong and the affect it’s had on us, I find it reassuring and even a bit hopeful that our children are so very intent on staying connected – just as long as their phones are charged.

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