Jay Solomon

In every generation there’s a defining moment

It’s almost impossible to believe that today marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

September 11th, 2001, was my first day of university. Before leaving for my first class – Introduction to Politics, if I recall correctly – I vividly remember sitting in my living room fixated on the TODAY show’s live coverage of – what was, at the time, described as – a small plane that had hit the World Trade Centre in New York City. A tragic accident, I remember thinking to myself. And then, as if out of nowhere, a second plane appeared from the left corner of the screen and slammed into the second tower (31:30 at the link above). Even as a relatively naïve young adult at the time, I immediately knew this was no accident and that our lives would never be the same.

From 2001 through 2004, I wrote a regular column for the Toronto Town Crier, a newspaper that was, at that time, read by approximately 300,000 households in the GTA. In my first column after the 9/11 attacks, I wrote the following:

…Upon hearing of this catastrophe, my grandparents quickly drew a parallel to the events of December 7th 1941, the bombing of Pearl Harbour. At the same time, my parents were quick to say that they were reminded of the day that JFK was assassinated. And all I could do was sit there with my jaw on the floor.

I, like many others my age, have never faced a time of such terrible tragedy, and so when I witnessed the second plane hit the World Trade Centre live on television, all I could do was watch in disbelief. The unthinkable was now possible.

In every generation, there is a defining moment. A time in history that stands still. For my grandparent’s era, it was the bombing of Pear Harbour. And for my parent’s era, it was the assassination of beloved president JFK. But the defining moment of my generation has yet to be discovered. Will it be the events of 9-11?…

Ten or so weeks after the attack, I stood with my family at what quickly became known as Ground Zero. Astonishingly, the rubble was still smoldering. And, the smell is not something I’ve since allowed myself to forget. Dust from the collapsed towers was still blowing about the blocks of Manhattan nearest the site, covering the windows of nearby building windows, leaving them nearly black. It was a scene straight out of an apocalyptic movie.

And yet, despite the destruction that had been thrust upon New York ( as well as Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. and, in turn, the rest of the free world too), even in those early days, the spirit of the city was very much alive and well. On every street corner, there were vendors selling merchandise celebrating the FDNY, NYPD, and other first responders who tirelessly risked their lives to save others. There were street carolers ushering in the festive season, and families skating on the ice rink in Rockefeller plaza. Restaurants were bustling and stores were packed with holiday shoppers. In a way, similar to the positive attitude of Israelis who believe life is for living, New Yorkers – and those visiting – were sending a powerful message to those who perpetrate evil.

Will history books view 9/11 as the defining moment of my generation? Who knows? Though I’m fairly sure it will be listed up there as one of them. Either way, one thing is for certain – we must never forget the horrors of that day. We must collectively speak out against terrorism, and we must call on our elected representatives to do the same. And, we should live our lives to their fullest, cherish our loved ones and work together toward a safer, and more secure tomorrow.

About the Author
Jay Solomon is the Chief Advancement Officer for Hillel Ontario.
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