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9/11 and the Millennial Generation

SOC Growing Up in the Shadow of 9/11

Logo designed by Liz White

Just days before President Obama announced to the world that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan, American University students were putting the finishing touches on their class project, “Growing Up in the Shadow of 9/11.”

They were between 11 and 15 years old on Sept. 11, 2001. Now they are journalism students and graduates from American University’s School of Communication.  Their assignment: examine the impact September 11, 2001 has had on the Millennial Generation.

“One of the most interesting aspects of the project was that we were both the journalists and the subjects,” said Lindsey Anderson.  “As a journalist, you are taught to separate yourself from the subject, to look at it objectively. But Sept. 11 — and the changes it brought — is an experience that is so ingrained in our generation; it's not something you can easily distance yourself from.”

Their research shows that college students and recent graduates—who were as young as 8 when the attacks occurred—are more likely to follow the news, study foreign relations, learn foreign languages, and be politically active because of 9/11.

"Our generation carries the weight of what happened that day,” said Ashley Bright. “The Millennial generation has spent our entire adult lives so far living in the shadow of 9/11, and we learned through our survey and reporting that this generation has intelligent, insightful things to say about the attacks. Young people are following the news and taking stock in what's happening to our country.”

The survey of more than 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 29 from all over the country revealed:

•    More than 70% aren’t worried about being a victim of terrorism
•    83% said they don’t hesitate to fly because of the attacks
•    67% said they are more likely to keep up with the news because of 9/11

“I was 15 on the day of the attacks, old enough to fully comprehend the significance of the events, although at the time I was not a big follower of world news,” said Cara Kelly, the project’s managing editor. “In that way 9/11 really shaped me. I realized I had to look outside of the small town in South Carolina where I grew up, that there were so many cultures and religions and events I knew relatively little about. Many in my generation went through the same experience, and now we are so connected with the world through the Internet and social media.”