The events of 9/11 and the subsequent decade ”” including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, worldwide terror alerts, increased security at airports ”” have affected everything from dreams to fears of those who were under 18 in 2001. In many ways, analysts say, it’s sculpted a more politically aware and socially active generation.
“You’ve heard how baby ducks imprint on whoever raises them? Social scientists believe there’s an imprinting effect on young people when they get closer to the age to get involved politically, sometime prior to 18,” says Thomas Sander, who studies civic engagement at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. “So the hypothesis was that 9/11 was kind of an imprinting moment where young people realized their fates were much more interconnected then we’d been led to believe … and that international affairs are much more consequential than they were for their parents.”
Bin Laden “became a symbol for my generation. … He symbolized loss and grief and hatred, and that’s how many of us defined this era,” says Eric Dinenberg, 28, a business school student from Paramus, N.J., who was a freshman at George Washington University in September 2001.