On the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, the Kids Aren’t Alright, but They May Still Save Us All

Joshua M. Patton
GEN
Published in
10 min readSep 11, 2021

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We were told to “never forget,” but we forgot almost everything except the fear and the inevitable rage that follows it.

Image via Pixabay

“The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.” — Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in America,” ESPN Page 2.

Pretty much any time I think of the terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, I think of the above quote from Hunter Thompson. At the time, he wrote a column of middling quality for ESPN’s website. Yet, as he was wont to do when all Hell broke loose, he had just the words a panicked America needed to read. Not what we wanted to, mind you. What we needed to. Each subsequent year, I hope it’s the one that finally proves him wrong. It never is. Now, with two full decades and a once-per-century pandemic between the present moment and that strange Tuesday, I almost yearn for the simplicity of the fear and sense of massive loss that followed in the immediate aftermath. We, and by “we” I do mean America, seem to have fallen so much further in the past 20 years. We may all remember where we were on that fateful morning, but we’ve forgotten damn near everything else.

I joined the United States Army Reserve in April of 1998, mere months before graduating from high school. Ironically, I joined the Army — in part — to see the world. I recall those moments clearly, and I knew it was a safe bet because America had pretty much conquered war in my estimation. From the 100-hour victory in Kuwait to the NATO peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, our present conflicts seemed to be about defending nations other than our own. Any future war, I thought, would end very shortly after it began. In 1999, I deployed to Bosnia where NATO had helped put down a genocide. Along with my military duties, we helped rebuild a park and a school. I was 19, and the Bosnian locals looked at me (and every other solider) like a goddamn hero. On the mornings I had guard duty, I’d look out at the city and listen to the Adhan. Listening to the…

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Joshua M. Patton
GEN

Entertainment, culture, politics, essays & lots of Star Wars. Bylines: Comic Years, CBR. Like my work? Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/O5O0GR