How September 11, 2001 Redefined Generation X

Paul Hair

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America forever changed on Sep. 11, 2001 when the Islamic terrorists of al-Qaeda hijacked four planes and killed thousands of people. Loved ones mourned their loss and the nation grieved with them. Afterwards, the country implemented sweeping societal changes in an attempt to increase security. And a new wave of wars began. Less noticeable changes occurred too. One such change was the redefinition of Generation X. Society no longer talked about it as being a generation of slackers. And Gen Xers looked at life in a different fashion too; some of us looked at it with a new sense of purpose.

The terrorist attacks occurred during the midst of the forgotten generation’s formative years, with Infogalactic providing some details on the significance of that. The same Infogalactic entry also included the following observation:

The Greensboro News & Record reported Gen Xers “felt a surge of patriotism since terrorists struck” reporting many were responding to the crisis of the terrorist attacks by giving blood, working for charities, donating to charities, and by joining the military to fight The War on Terror.

Indeed, I heard the call of duty and that profoundly altered the course of my life.

Most everything about me—my personality, how I like to live, what I like to do—seemingly goes against a military lifestyle. But after I watched the attacks and after I watched others go to war, I asked myself: Why not me? Why shouldn’t I be part of the armed forces?

And so I joined the U.S. Army Reserve, deployed to the Iraq War, and was honorably discharged after eight years.

But writing about how the Sep. 11 attacks changed me is not the same as hearing someone else describe how it changed him. And that’s exactly what then Capt. Garrett Hoover does in the 2008 video at the top of the page.

Hooper says he was 30 at the time of the attacks (which marks him as Generation X). It’s fascinating to hear how they changed his outlook on life and its entire trajectory.

September 11, 2001 is a generation away now. In some ways, that deadly day seems closer. In other ways, it seems much more distant. Regardless, America is fundamentally different today than it was then.

Generation X is different now too. It’s still a quiet generation. But it’s a generation that includes many people whose lives took a different path than they could’ve imagined when they were younger. It’s a generation that includes many people who have a much different purpose in life than they did all those years ago . . . even as that purpose sprang from something horrific.

Top Video: Capt. Garrett Hooper talks to a military reporter about his experiences on September 11th, 2001 and his decision to quit his private practice as an attorney and join the military after 9/11. Produced by Staff Sgt. Kelly Collett, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office. Posted on Sep. 11, 2008.

Video in Body: When the Towers Fell | National Geographic YouTube Channel.

Note: The appearance of visual information from DVIDS does not imply or constitute U.S. Department of Defense or government endorsement.

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