For the last few days I’ve been consumed by news. I wish I could say it was the first time I’ve seen a nation united by mourning, but it’s not.
I was born in the early 1990s. I’m a part of a generation that has a divided childhood: pre and post 9/11.
The first part of my childhood was a relatively peaceful time in the United States. The Cold War had ended and technology was quickly advancing. I learned about the Great Depression, WWI and WWII in school, but I never imagined a world where such events would come to pass again. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, but we didn’t worry about massacres.
September 11, 2001 was the dividing point of my childhood. My innocence was crushed as I watched the World Trade Centers come crashing down. I didn’t understand everything; I asked a lot of questions, but my parents couldn’t tell me why anyone would do such a thing. I remember hearing civilians scream in the background of the reports we watched and reporters losing their words, but most of all I remember the smoke that covered downtown Manhattan. Even though I wasn't there, I remember feeling scared; if this could happen in New York, it could happen anywhere. As I continued to watch the news for days on end, I began to understand what it meant to see a nation unite. I began to understand that the United States flag really did represent freedom as it waved at Ground Zero.
Since September 11, my memories seem to be filled with violent news stories. No, the violence (explosions, shootings,etc.) did not physically influence my life, but the images that passed changed my world. I remember watching news reports covering everything from the US declaring War on Afghanistan to the beginning of the war in Iraq.
In high school, I remember watching reports about the Virginia Tech massacre, the Columbine of my generation.
In college, I followed the stories about Mexico’s drug war that resulted in thousands of innocent victims. I remember being in the library when I heard the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed. I remember the beginning of the Arab Spring as uprisings began in Egypt and Libya. I remember the news about the mass shootings at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I remember watching video clips from the violent war in Syria and I remember sitting in the journalism lab when news about the Boston Marathon bombing came in.
Post college, world news has included: fighting in Ukraine and Crimea, another deadly conflict between Israel and Hamas, the rise of ISIS, the beheadings of American and English journalists and aid workers [by ISIS], and the Sydney hostage crisis in Australia.
Not even two weeks into 2015 there have been three terror attacks in three days in France. Seventeen people were killed in the attacks; most were journalists. They didn’t carry guns; they carried pens. They were attacked for practicing their freedom of speech. Although not everyone agreed with the Charlie Hebdo content (the satirical magazine that was attacked), it was clear that France and allies around the world condemned the violence.
My point to this post is this: I’ve spent over half my life watching violent events unfold around the world. As much as I’m saddened when I see breaking news stories like these, I’m not shocked like I used to be. I’ve learned how valuable both freedom and free speech are, and I question if the world will ever go back to how it was during my pre 9/11 childhood. Watching the recent events unfold while living in France has been nerve-wracking, to say the least. It’s also been incredible to see France, and here allies, come together at plazas and marches not only all over France, but also around the world.