I don't really have anything interesting to add to the reminiscences that are appearing everywhere. I wrote about the event fifteen years ago, in a Sunday Night Journal post called "Eventually, Like Napoleon: My 9/11 Column." On re-reading it, I see a sentiment that would get me labelled as a xenophobe now, and probably would have then if the people who like to use the word had happened to read the piece: I proposed as one possible response that we (the country) could begin being really, really careful about immigration from mostly or officially Muslim countries.
But on this anniversary I'm aware of one element of some of these reminiscences that I don't recall seeing before: prefatory remarks along the lines of "For those old enough to remember..." That was startling to me. Can it really have been long enough since September 2001 that there are people young enough not to remember it?
Well, yes, of course, it can and it is. Most people under twenty-five or so will have little or no memory, and since we persist, in spite of evidence to the contrary, in treating anyone over twenty-one as an adult, this comes to a fair number of adults. And what memory they do have will be those of a child who had no idea what was really going on. And many of those under thirty won't have a great deal more than that.
This reminds me of a similarly startling realization that hit me some thirty years ago. At work one day several of us were standing around talking, the way people do in offices (unless someone prevents them), and the question came up, as it sometimes does among people old enough to remember it: where were you when you heard that JFK had been shot? A couple of people gave their answers (I was in 10th grade biology class). Then one young woman, having heard these, piped up: "I don't have any idea where I was because I was only two years old." And yet there she was, one of us, the grown-up people doing grown-up jobs. I think the rest of us were a bit stunned; I know I was. How could there be a functioning adult who did not remember the Kennedy assassination? (The first one, I mean. The second one never had the same effect.)
I just can't get used to this time thing.