The 9/11 Generation Poem

Where were you when Kennedy was shot?
That was the question that unified a generation
A generation that I am not a part of
And lately I have been speculating about my question
Our question
What experience defines us?
What's our eternal and internal reflection?
I peered into the past
And found it easy to discover
Polluting paint in fireman's helmets
Rippling through wandering smoke
Lurking around the ruins
Pirouetting on crumbled bricks
It's heavy feet shattering the glass
Of already broken windows
Where were you when the planes hit the twin towers?

This is not going to be a morbid poem.
There will be no political undertones
No lingering devastation
Just an underage voice.

Most youthful poets have embraced this prompt
Using mysterious diction to describe
The bitter clash of cultures
The electrocuting uncertainty
And the event that we barely remember
But can never forget

They say I'm a member of the 9/11 generation
Nurtured by TSA violations
The Muslim backlash
and the Patriot Act
No, I don't remember a world where you didn't
Expect the government listening in
On your call to grandma
Asking about her health
Fear is normal, natural
The supernatural is expected
And the discomfort is reflected
When I say I am an American
And my peers want me to declare it in shame
Claiming that our constant intervention
Sticking our noses—
guns into everyone else's business
Caused this
They say we brought it upon ourselves
They say a lot of things
They say a lot of wrong things

They say I'm a member of the 9/11 generation
I was in kindergarten when the plane dove into the towers
When the smoke consumed thousands of lives in mere moments weaved into hours
When the insecurities and the anguish of the once modern building
Collapsed into itself
Then into us
It fell
We were left tilting
The teachers wanted to protect us
So they said nothing
We made macramé instead
Mine wasn't twisted red, white, and blue ties
Lilac and sunrise were the only shades in my eyes
For I was no patriot
I didn't have patriotism or politics in my head
I didn't know relations and war
Or how they both made us sore
I couldn’t comprehend terror
Or why it dwelled in the term terrorism
I knew that Michelle and Sam left early that day
So when my mother pulled me out of school
And asked me the question
Do you know what happened?
I couldn't understand
Even after she explained it

They say I'm a member of the 9/11 generation
I've heard that everyone thought that was our final day
That panic pierced the air in vicious way
Images of destruction cemented in our parents' minds
That it was the crucial moment
When we had to create the courage to fight
Or the agility to flee

They say I'm a member of the 9/11 generation
But I don't agree
There were no tumbling skyscrapers on my television
There was Clifford and Sesame Street
In my hands I cradled Goodnight Moon
and Where the Wild Things Are
Instead of newspapers
Narrating where the wild things really were
I was a child
And I'm still a child
Just one gripping a pen
Raging and wild
I'm tired of being defined by something I don’t understand
By fear and death at others' hands
All the destruction and decay
That swallowed that day
I'm defined by creation
By the 10,000 babies born in those 24 hours
By the heroism of Flight 93
How they let the plane crash into a barren Pennsylvania field
Before the courage in their hearts decided to flee
By the man adorning a scarlet bandana
Who scurried from the offices
Liberating the news of the true situation
Our contemporary Paul Revere
The dead are just that
But I'm alive
Fresh ivy has grown over the ruins
A girl celebrated her 10th year
The newborn beauty
Will outlast the devastation
The fire on the buildings' skin has extinguished
But the roar of determination
The flames of resilience
Never will
It will fuel our American engine
Push us to sing louder
Dance faster
But love harder
We will fill those moments of silence with reincarnated hope

I am a part of the 9/11 generation
The generation of redemption
And forgiveness
Of strength in the face of hatred
We are the generation of liberation
Of the oppressed
Of the terror
Of the intolerance that spawned the event
The generation that kindled light in the shadows
The generation that took down Osama
But wishes we didn't have to
We are the generation who used Blue's Clues
to find out Where's Waldo
I am the generation of the first female president
The one who will expand the statute of limitations for rape
Who will eliminate poverty
And lynch racism

And this is our 9/11 poem
It is not morbid
It has no political undertones
Just thousands of underage voices
Shouting for justice with dignity
This poem holds the scent of freedom
And a taste of liberty
There is no lingering devastation
But bushels of loitering hope

We are the 9/11 generation
Don't define us by the agony we witnessed
But by the way we stood back up
Identify us with the reconstruction
Redirection and reflection
Stop telling me I am where I've been
I'm synonymous with where I'm going
Because I am embarking on uncharted territory
And honestly, I am terrified
But not enough to turn back.


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