Voices of a New Generation
By the NYU Community

Is this our wake-up call?

The World Trade Center tragedy was a swift kick in the ass to a generation that grew up spoiled and naive. On the bluest, clearest, crispest fall morning, Manhattan in 2001 felt like what Eastern Europe must have felt like on fall days in the ’30s and ’40s. There we were, mingling over coffee and cigarettes; envying someone’s new pair of boots; finding a sunny spot to sit as we ate a leisurely bagel and cream cheese, when the faceless mask of evil reared itself.

We joined the mass exodus uptown. The thick black cloud hovered over us, pungent with the smells of loss and impending doom. We scurried like rodents, some of us crying hopelessly as we tried to make sense of the indelible mark being branded on us, on our freedom.

Now we wait in paranoia for The Next Big Thing, our once-meaningful lives suspended indefinitely in a global tangle. We cry because the word "missing" has taken on a whole new meaning. We see a photo, and wonder if the gentleman featured there was sitting beside us on the F train last week, or if that young lady wasn’t the one who held the door for us at Bloomingdale’s the other day. We watch the families, the firemen, the mayor - the void - and we somehow feel like sinners for getting up just one week later and moving forward.

Monica Haim, graduate student

Our innocence has been tarnished

I became teary-eyed at the sound of the children swinging in Washington Square Park. There was something chilling about the metal squeal that screamed from the chains. The children seemed so happy. Yet it was haunting in a way that it had never been before. Their innocence is tarnished now, much like my own.

Natalie Stevens, graduate student

We’ve taken too much for granted

Until two weeks ago, there was no unifying cause for our generation: No Civil Rights marches, no missile crises, no Vietnam--and a draft--what was that? We didn’t hold demonstrations against the government, burn our bras or stage sit-ins and protest marches. The things that united us were jokes from Seinfeld, the latest computer game, the kind of cell phone that we used

Along with the destruction of those two glorious towers came the destruction of our innocence. We will never again know nights where we could fall asleep with barely any worries, and wake up with even less. We now understand that those nights were not real life, but merely one of so many luxuries we unknowingly took for granted. It isn’t our fault; we didn’t know any better. Now we do.

Rebecca Gober, undergraduate

This will shake us out of our cynicism

Maybe our childhood was a time of peace and prosperity, but life hasn’t been easy for our generation. Half of our parents were divorced, making us seasoned travelers from house to house and family to family. We were latchkey children and had single, working moms. We grew up the four letter acronyms, D.A.R.E. and AIDS, warning us about sex and drugs as early as fifth grade. We went to high schools that had metal detectors and listened to empty music that was packaged to sell.

We were called slackers, apathetic, but really we were just jaded and arrogant. And why wouldn’t we be? The man who was president for most of our lives was associated more with sex than with politics. And the first time we got to vote in a national election, the candidate who got the popular vote did not get the job in the White House.

Now, the beginning of our adulthood is marked by the most heinous act of violence in our nation’s history. In daylight, hijacked planes attacked the symbols of the wealth and power that our generation had expected to inherit. That destruction shattered our cold, stony attitude because all of us now understand that we are the ones with the most at stake. We’ll be the ones who will fight the war waged by baby boomers. We’ll be the ones to ultimately have to repair the economy, deal with the political fallout, confront the state of the world

So far we have risen to the occasion. From what I’ve seen, this event has united us, made us more vocal, more involved. We’re volunteering at the Red Cross, we’re giving blood by the gallons, we’re raising money and writing to our congressmen and senators. In doing so, we are figuring out our identity and finding our voice.

Melanie Shortman, undergraduate

We’ve lost an opportunity to pursue a better world

Many of us believed that we had an opportunity to develop a new mentality, and a new kind of society. Just as we tried to redefine business through the Internet and dot-coms, we might have redefined our world. In an era of prosperity, we were in a position to concentrate on social questions that tend to be forgotten in tougher times. My generation had the resources and the freedom to successfully tackle the damaged environment, racism, sexism, illiteracy, and child and international poverty.

It will be some time before we can focus on these issues again. After watching the World Trade Center crumble - thinking about the lives sacrificed, absorbing the shock of losing a friend- now seem remote to me and far less significant.

Sarah Mandle, graduate student

Old words, new meaning: Give peace a chance

I have an old medallion that reads "War is not healthy for children and other living things." I stole it from my aunt when I was, like, 15. Whenever I looked at this artifact from the ’60s, I couldn’t fathom what it must have been like to live at a time when you needed to express a desire for peace.

That medallion has taken on new meaning to me in the weeks since the World Trade Center collapse. Even without processing all the news about the terrorists and our enemies, my first instinct is to accept that the medallion’s understated phrase.

War is wrong, and I hope that my generation makes a plea for peace. We need to join in on efforts like teach-ins and marches and vigils. We need to change our priorities and focus on the bigger world and our place in it. We need to convince our country that violence isn’t the solution because it will destroy the very limited and precious time we have in this human experience.

Tracy Silverman

We were headed for disaster

I can’t help but feel that, in some way, this is karma kicking our fair country in the ass. I think of how bizarre things have been for those of us who’ve come of age at the dawn of the millennium. Any street prophet could have told us we were heading for disaster. What kind of fate can you expect for a nation that so blatantly allows itself to be manipulated by mass media; a place where school shootings are commonplace and where road rage is a household; a society where people kill one another because they don’t like the color of their skin or their sexual orientation? For all of our money, power, imperialism, education, opportunity and all-around self-righteousness, we are one fucking weak country.

Rachel Schneider, NYU alumni, Class 2001