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'We don't know life before that:' Gen Z reflects on 9/11, an event they didn't experience

Posted at 8:58 AM, Sep 10, 2021

ADA, Michigan — For many Americans 9/11 is something that was experienced firsthand. But for Gen Z, those born in the late 90's early 2000's, they have no collective memory of the attacks. In fact, every student in high school right now was born after the attacks. The generation only knows the attacks through school, social media and movies.

FOX 17 sat down with five seniors from Forest Hills Eastern High School to get their take on how they view the attacks and the 20-year anniversary.

"Everyone knows exactly what they were doing on that day. And it's strange, because we don't know life before that," senior Zoe Kukla said.
Zoe Kukla

The students don't know life before the attacks but they do know violence in the twenty first century.

“I almost feel desensitized to all of the violence of it, because we were so badgered with it when we were little," Kukla added.

Instead of seeing the attacks live on TV, the students learned about the events flipping through the pages of a textbook. However, growing up in the age of COVID-19, they understand how a traumatic life-event can impact everyday life.

"I feel like it was a change in the world, just like how COVID affected us, and how the world started changing. We started doing things differently and getting used to different ways," senior Kaleb Jenkins said.

The students know what happened 20 years ago, but they don't necessarily know why or the repercussions that came after.

"I feel completely lost on why it actually happened. I know what happened, but I just don't understand why," senior Sladen Van Andel said.

But just because they weren't there when it happened, doesn't mean they don't understand the impacts.

"I don't know if we can ever feel the same pain that the people that actually experienced it did, but we can understand their point of view," senior Jaisal Chopra said.

They understand the heartbreak, the trauma and the point of view, but don't necessarily emotionally connect to the event. Back in the early 2000's, educators taught 9/11 keeping students' well-being in mind since the event was still so fresh.

"My first couple of years teaching, we didn't really talk about the day itself more of the cause and effect of the event because it was too emotional to talk about the events of that day for those students," Forest Hills Eastern High School history teacher Sara Brasic said.

Now, it's being taught just like any other historical event.

"There's not as much of the emotional response because there's no personal reflection there," Forest Hills Eastern High School social studies teacher Richard Kelbel said.

The students say sometimes the attacks feel like it is something they lived through because their parents tell them the stories and are exposed to the anniversary every single year.

Gen Z may not remember or weren't alive for 9/11, but they know the importance and impact and still recognize every anniversary as a time to reflect and honor the lives lost.