9/11: Remembering the Fallen & Building a Generation's Future

Today we reflect on the terrorist attack that shook the country and shaped our generation's future. Amid a fury of debate over whether a mosque should be built at Ground Zero or whether a pastor in Florida has the right to burn a Koran, we can't lose sight of what this day is really about, nor what it will always mean for those of us who became politically awakened and engaged on Sept. 11, 2001, and all that has since transpired.

Foremost, this day is about the individuals who died and the families who carried on in the wake of tragedy.

For young people in particular, the day will always serve as a reminder of a definitive turning point in our generation's share of the American Dream. In a moment, our nation's priorities shifted and our collective vision for the future we'd inherit was forever shaped by this experience, one that could serve to further divide us or bring us closer together for a common purpose.

Next fall we will mark the 10-year anniversary of the attacks, and while the weight of that near-decade of time passing is difficult to process, we should pause and consider the scope of what our generation has lived through and accomplished since that shocking and horrifying day. We've seen two wars, Hurricane Katrina, an overwhelming surge of youth participation at the ballot box in the historic 2008 election that resulted in the nation's first African-American President, an economic crisis, the Gulf Oil Spill, and now we find ourselves facing the worst job market for young people in decades. Have we, in fact, let these very serious things further divide us or bring us together for a common purpose?

We've seen, especially in the last two years, that people can't agree on everything, but our generation's common purpose can be to engage, to use our voices, and to participate in the process for the rest of our lives. In the same way we turned confusion and fear around into action after the attacks, today we owe it to ourselves to renew that commitment to our core values and to each other for the long haul.

The times we live in now are fast-paced, and it's easy to get caught up in the distracting news cycle or the things happening in our lives at the moment. If we step back and remember how much we've actually weathered already, and consider how long it took us to get right here today, it's astounding and inspiring to realize that we can still shape our future.

Sept. 11 is a painful day, but one that has become a Day of Service. Whether you are volunteering or commemorating it in your own way, let's all take some time to reflect on what happened, and move forward using the unique power we have as a generation committed to coming together to rise above the ashes.