I suppose this will be the defining question for Gen-X and the Millennials much as “Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?” was for us Baby Boomers.
I was in my sixth grade junior high school class when Mrs. Kirkpatrick turned on the television and we heard the news on that November day back in 1963. I was shocked. How could this be? A classmate began weeping and we tried to console her. We were confused, curious and sad. And surprisingly, I saw smugness and stifled glee among some young Southerners who reflected their parents’ distain of the slain President because of his civil rights stance.
Five years ago on September 11, I was on my job at DuPage County Human Services. When we heard the news, again I asked, “How can this be?” We were near enough to Chicago to immediately worry about whether Chicago would be attacked. Our government building was closed and we were sent home to follow the news.
When we returned the next day, we began to see the fallout. Many callers I spoke with only wanted someone to talk to them. One woman was nearly hysterical. In the following weeks I talked to the wife of a Chicago cab driver looking for somewhere to get food. No one would get into her husband’s cab because he “looked like a terrorist.” I tried to advise a United Airlines executive. He’d gone to New York after the attacks to help, and when he returned home, his job was gone. The economy took a big hit and I was called upon to help the wounded with food, housing, medical resources or shoes for their kids. It was depressing, and I decided to go back to school to study graphic design. I gave up trying to save the world. It was too sad.