I represent a group of United States citizens, born after the end of the Vietnam War, which has struggled with many domestic problems, and many of my generation have faced daily oppression due to prejudice, poverty and inequity.
Nevertheless, until yesterday morning, we have awoken each day with one blessing: the feeling that our lives are safe from any immediate danger of attack by a foreign aggressor. We have faced adversity, some of us more than others, but we have been blessed with the comfort of knowing that we were at least safe from enemies that come from outside of our borders.
At times, the insulation that we enjoyed seemed surreal; how many people, in the history of the nation-state, have enjoyed such an extended cushion from interstate violence? Only a small minority of us were closely touched by casualty during the Gulf War — our only major military involvement during our lifetime. Our parents can still feel the pang of losing loved ones in Vietnam, and our grandparents can still recall the wake-up call that echoed from the bombing of Pearl Harbor, yet we were still innocent — with only Hollywood to provide us with the images of attack on our own shores. But contrary to Hollywood’s prediction, our threat was pedestrian, not intergalactic.
While those who lost loved ones in the recent tragedies will suffer the most, these next few weeks will be a time of unique mourning for the tens of millions of members of my peer group. We will mourn the loss of our innocence, and we will never again wake up in the vacuum that we inhabited until today. We did nothing to deserve the protection that we enjoyed for so long, and perhaps we did nothing to lose it either.
These attacks may have lengthy political ramifications, or they may spark a quick and destructive retaliatory blow. However, they have, above all else, brought an end to an idyllic and anomalous era in human history. Along with the burial of thousands of innocent human lives this week, my friends and I bury a sense of security that has been a constant, though oftentimes tacit, component of our lives. Today I both reflect thankfully upon the gift that we were given, and regretfully move on to a life where that gift has been taken away.