The 18th Birthday of 9-11-01

Habitat for Humanity Construction Crew September 11, 2001, lunch break on the porch.

September 11, 2019, is the 18th birthday for a large number of Americans.  I have not yet come across specific data on how many new 18 year olds there are today.   My best guess, based on the information I can find, I estimate that these new 18-year old adults number about 10,000, and are at the pinnacle of about 75,000,000 people who have joined the U.S. population since September 11, 2001.  Here’s one of the sources I’ve relied on.  The U.S. census office is most reliable.

Between 2001 and 2019 the U.S. population increased from about 286 million to 330 million….  Eighteen years earlier, in 1983, the estimated U.S. population was about 236,000,000.

I have personal feelings about 9-11-01, which I’ll share at the end of this post.  But this particular moment in history I’ve been thinking about these new 18 year olds, who are the vanguard of the post 9-11-01 generation who inherit what we’ll leave behind.  Until today they can blame we elders for stupid decisions.  Now, they’re voting age, and will, like everyone else, decide how or whether to participate in this democracy; and if they decide to vote, whether or not they’ll be informed at all, or will vote for more than just one or two offices.

It is hard for me to relate to the feelings of these young people as their adulthood begins,  I was young once, as well.  On my 18th birthday, I was a senior in high school, 61 years ago, in a tiny town.  I was born at the end of the Great Depression, and right before WWII began for the U.S.  My mentors, in those first eighteen years, were people who in one way or another were impacted by both the Depression and the War.  There were no sit down lectures.  They had lived both.

So, I’ve decided, in this musing, to invite us all, individually, to reflect on this new group of 18 year olds including their nearest preceding similar group – those born in 1983, who turned 18 in 2001; and on ourselves as well.  It’s our shared past, and their future….

We have grandkids in both pre and post-9-11 cohorts.  How are things different for this new generation, than they were for the generation immediately preceding them?  What challenges does this crop have to confront as new adults, which differ from the challenges of their predecessors?  Or of people of my cohort (18 in 1958)?  Or yours?

I’ve started my own list.

For just a single example: I came across an e-mail I wrote on October 17, 2001, weeks after 9-11.  This e-mail was not about 9-11; it was written when I was editing a newsletter for a cultural group of which I was a member.  I had edited this newsletter for 16 years at the time of my e-mail, and it wasn’t until the very end  that the words ‘e-mail’ or ‘website’ were even mentioned.  Oh, there was e-mail, and websites, but they were not common knowledge to the masses at the time.  We sent the newsletter by U.S. mail.  In the e-mail, I said “I have done nothing further on the Web-site idea but it is still a doable idea…So few of our members are on the internet that we couldn’t forget about other kinds of communications….”  We really had only the most vague ideas about this future means of communicating.

It wasn’t until 2004 that “Facebook” appeared; 2005, YouTube; 2006, Twitter.  By now those websites and e-mail are old-hat for the young.  We’re in the wild-west when it comes to communicating between generations, even within our own generation.

Another: These new 18 year olds haven’t had to go to war…yet…but they registered for Selective Service when they applied for their Drivers License.  (There was no such requirement to register to vote at the same time.)

Their previous cohort shed lots of blood in the Iraq War; a legacy war of 9-11; one in which we are still engaged, though there are plenty of efforts to dissociate Iraq et  al  from Afghanistan (where the bombing began in October, 2001, and the killing continues today.)  Far more of our young died in Iraq, than died in the 9-11-2001 attacks; and infinitely more innocent Iraqis and others have died in the middle east as a result of our military adventure, for which 9-11 created a pretext, and which has become a never ending war.

I wish the new 18 year olds well.  “Party hardy” today, if you wish or can, but get engaged in your own future.  It is your life that is at stake.


Photos of World Trade Center New York City, end of June, 1972, by Dick Bernard

9-11-01 FOR ME:

I was participating in a week-long Habitat for Humanity build-in-progress in Minneapolis.  Our turn began on September 10, 2001.  The morning of 9-11 I was driving across the Mississippi River bridge when the announcement was made that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers.  I didn’t pay all that much attention.  At the build site, later, someone brought a radio, but I doubt any of us had any idea of the immensity of the day until we arrived at our homes later in the afternoon, and saw the news on television.  9-11 brought many unexpected volunteers.  By the end of the week, we had more volunteers than we could use.

I wrote about my reflections on the day a short while later: Post 9-11-01001

A photo I took at our site on or near 9-11-01 leads this blog.  Several times I’ve driven by the completed house in past years, including most recently on September 5, 2019 (below).  The owners of the home have taken very good care of it.

September 5, 2019. “Habitat Home” in south Mpls, which was under construction, Sep 11, 2001

Today, September 11, 2019, I’m going to pay especially close attention to how 9-11-2001 is ‘spun’ by media and others (one of which, of course, is myself).  The matter of Afghanistan, which was our first response to the 9-11 attack, continues as the longest war in which we have ever been engaged.  Lots of effort is expended to somehow detach the reality of all of the other conflicts which, in reality, we began in response to 9-11-01.  Let’s hope that this cohort whose vanguard turns 18 today, has a life worth living in the coming years.  We aren’t giving them a head start….

POSTNOTE: Expect a followup to this post in coming days.  Your contribution to that post is welcomed.  Deadline: this weekend.  Online responses continue below.  A comment via e-mail from yesterday, from Len: “If you want to read a good rendition and perspective on the events of 9-11-01, I recommend Sott Pelly’s book “Truth Worth Telling”.”

POSTNOTE 2, Saturday Sep 14: There has been several comments, presented below.  These will be the ‘followup’ referred to above.  It goes without saying that 9-11-01 was an emotional time.  What was to become this blog began with “P&J” (peace and justice) on a daily basis, sometimes more than once, sharing feelings from an e-mailing list.  Some years ago I gave the first 100 P&J’s to the Minnesota Historical Society.  Perhaps someday someone might want to open the box to see what people had to say ‘back then’.  In the interim, here are four items from the first six months, from the evening of September 11, 2001; September 17; October 8 and April 22, 2002: each is a single page, and speak for themselves. 9-11-01 Aftermath001.

This week, I noted that the news media basically left un-noted the certain outcome of 9-11-01: the pretext for the War on Iraq.  A notable exception I noted in this mornings Minneapolis Star Tribune opinion section, a column by John Rash, which speaks for itself, and is about a movie opening this weekend, “Official Secrets”, which I certainly plan to attend.  Here is the link to the column.

We Americans had a choice to make after the tragedy of 9-11-01.  We made what is always the simplest choice: to find a scapegoat and go to war.  In many and sundry ways, we are still paying for our misadventure.  When will be learn…?

7 replies
  1. Bill Habedank
    Bill Habedank says:

    I fell asleep on the couch with the television on. When I woke up at 8:00 am on the morning of September 11,2001, the first thing I saw was a tall burning building on the television. I rubbed my eyes. What kind of movie was this? Then it hit me that this was no movie. Another airliner hit the south tower. The reality of what happened suddenly hit me. I knew my life would change forever.

    My emotions were raw, mostly extreme anger at who would do this. I immediately sat down and wrote an editorial for my local paper saying that we needed to do anything to avenge this crime. It was published the next day

    On September 12, 2001 my emotions had settled down but I wanted to serve my country. I had just received my federal tax rebate check for $600. I knew I could not spend on myself. I immediately made plans to send my rebate back to the government. I started a very public campaign entitled “Send it Back”. I had posters all over Goodhue County telling why they should do this and how. I did this until December. When President Bush said to “Go shopping” I knew that nothing would be expected from us who were not in the military. By that time the rebates had been spent so I ended the campaign.

    My wife and I flew to Washington DC on September 11: 2002. We wanted to take part in the memorials taking place that day. The 911 Memorial Display had just opened that day so we went and spent two hours looking amongst people like us who were all mourning.

    We saw the front pages of every newspaper in the world that were published on September 12, 2001. The horror of it all shown on every front page. Then it dawned on me. September 12, 2001 was the best chance for the world to make peace. What an opportunity! We blew it big time.

    I did not want another 911 to ever happen so I joined the peace movement and never looked back . Yes, 911 changed my life and I want it to change others as well.

    • dickbernard
      dickbernard says:

      Bill, thank you for your honesty. In October, 2001, when we started to bomb Afghanistan, 94% of Americans approved of the action, and most expected a long war. I was in the 6% opposed. I really could see nothing good coming out of the action. It wasn’t altruistic on my part; I just couldn’t see how bombing somebody else would settle scores. We all know how that turned out. And you surely did turn the corner! Your Vets for Peace event, Peacestock, in July, was superb. Thank you. By the way, check back at the blog, I’ve added two photos of the Trade Center that I took in 1971.

      • Bill
        Bill says:

        Thank you Dick! And for an opportunity to write about my change. I would like to think that my change proves that everyone is capable in changing. That is what keeps me going

  2. Florence Hedeen
    Florence Hedeen says:

    I’m sitting here catching up on email and listening to remembrances of the 9/11/01 attack on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the downed plane in PA at the hand of passengers who truly gave their all. On 9/11 I was on my way in from the cabin to pick up building materials, 17 miles away, in Park Rapids when I heard the news that the first tower had just been hit by a plane. By the time I got into the lumber yard, 15 minutes later,  the staff and customers there were already condemning Arabs/Muslims. That’s the social climate we’ve lived in for 45 years! I commented on my own concern that an entire population was being condemned for the actions of a few. It fell on deaf ears. The bias against communities not like us, white descendants of immigrants, has continued to this day. The first Sunday in October that year, I organized the first North Country Trail Hike for Hope in our area to remember the events of that day and call for tolerance and peace. No violence, even in retaliation for a “wrong”, will make things better. Peace must prevail.

  3. Bruce Stahlberg
    Bruce Stahlberg says:

    I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about the attacks on the WTC buildings. I also remember the exact moment when another citizen showed me the third WTC building that collapsed. It was July 12, 2006, almost 5 years after 9/11. The citizen was Leslie Reindl. It is in honor of her, Wayne Wittman, John Landgraf, and others, it is that I respond today.

    News coverage today about 9/11 is dominated by a recap of the official investigation and conclusion. What gets lost is the voice of citizens that use their First Amendment right, and duty, to ask questions that are ignored by the media and unanswered. It is easy to label them “conspiracy theorists” or “just plain crazy” but were your colleagues in the peace movement just plain nuts?

    What is the worry about scrutinizing the official investigation? Most investigations, research, and acts of scientific discovery encourage scrutiny to make sure the process is transparent and accurate. This is NOT the case with 9/11. Why does the media ignore the questions of citizens, researchers, firefighters, architects, engineers? Why do other citizens, their friends, and peers, also ignore the evidence presented to them? Why not scrutinize the evidence, show the Truth Movement how wrong they are so they will just stop asking questions?

    If you are unfamiliar with WTC 7, honor those who lost their lives with a 37-second video of Dan Rather reporting on the collapse that day, with no other influence.

    And you can know that the University of Alaska last week released a 4-year research study resulting in a contrary conclusion to the official explanation. Sadly the news sources, including MN Public Radio, did not pick it up. It is a short article, easy to read with what appears to be a big news story. Please read.

    Finally, a New York firefighter commission recently passed a resolution stating the need for a new investigation due to “overwhelming evidence presented in said petition demonstrates beyond any doubt that pre-planted explosives” destroyed three WTC buildings. Again, not much news coverage on this.

    I have an enormous amount of respect for the dedication and tenacity of the peace activists in Minnesota. I hope they understand the connection between world peace and the importance of rethinking what we have been told about the events of September 11, 2001.

  4. Larry Gauper
    Larry Gauper says:

    Thoughtful and poignant story, your reminisces of 9-11-2001. I was on the treadmill at home doing my morning exercise, watching “Good Morning, America” when the news first broke on that fateful day. I went to the office – our Blue Cross Blue Shield HQ in Fargo – and immediately set up some TVs in the cafeteria and some conference rooms. What a day! I always remember how the Clinton administration stopped the terrorist coming across through a Canadian-USA point of entry near Seattle. This was a short time – or was it a year? – before 9-11? At any rate, I’ve always heard the outgoing Clinton administration tried to tell the incoming Bush II people about the terrorist intelligence they had. But the incoming know-it-alls didn’t want any advice from the Clinton people. Lots of breakdowns in communication prior to the World Trade Center attack. Peter Lance, author of a book on the FBI and organized crime, asserts that, prior to 9-11, the FBI was so focused on “getting John Gotti” they didn’t have enough resources to keep a very close eye on Al Qaeda. Doing so may have prevented 9-11. If you care to watch/listen to Peter Lance’s lecture on C-SPAN, a session I attended in Las Vegas a few years back, paste the following link from my blog into your browser: – – Keep up the excellent work, Dick!


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