Last week, I thought that we had managed our way soberly, but successfully, through another anniversary of 9/11, with all of its remembrances. This bookmark in our country’s story recalls also days in my offices on the 23rd floor of Two World Trade Center, during the 70s. I was employed by the New State Division for Youth as Director of Training for New York City. At the early beginning of my career, I was full of the same stamina, confidence, and steel-like vision that the majestic towers also symbolized. We were going to transform the system which served the city’s most challenged, delinquent, and violent youth. In retrospect, we did make a positive difference for many youths, even if the towers are now a tragic memorial.
But as I awoke to the breaking news that 9/11 this year was not uneventful, and that four Americans were killed in a consulate on the other side of the world, one a former Peace Corps tutor who loved this foreign culture, I realized that 9/11 may have been muted, but not over.
When I was a child, the basic message was: “Children are to be seen, not heard.” In my generation, most often, we were not allowed to participate in adult conversations, but we did manage somehow to take in our parents’ and community’s sense of hope for better times, for the future of their children, for peace and justice, and for a better quality of life. I wonder now what our children today are taking in. This generation is so much less protected from our adult preoccupations, as media reports are so much more accessible to them. Do they experience vicariously the increased levels of adult uncertainty, and profound, heightened sense of vulnerability to our neighbors, both here and abroad? Do they know that their parents worry about whether they can keep them safe from terror, anywhere, or whether they will be able to support their children’s academic and economic success in a changing world context?
We may never put full closure on 9/11 in our lifetime, yet, in our anxiousness, and unwittingly, we should not leave a legacy of loss to the next generation. After all, There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow. (Orison Swett Marden, He Can Who Thinks He Can). Today, children are not only seen and heard, but they hear us loud and clear. And their response? I think it is most important that we convey a legacy of hope to the younger generations: Tomorrow will be better only if we believe enough to achieve it!