Memory  /  Oral History

The Children of 9/11 Are About to Vote

What the youngest cohort of American voters thinks about politics, fear and the potential of the country they’ve grown up in.

Remembering 9/11

Before settling on “Gen Z,” demographers and researchers initially started calling their generation “Homelanders,” after the association of their birth and the rise and creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the “War on Terror.” It would be years before they understood what that meant and why it cast a pall over their annual celebrations.

Kellicosmetology student, Charlotte, N.C.: My aunt told me she was in the hospital on my birthday, holding me, watching the news, and thought a movie was playing because it just looked too crazy.

Anish, computer science student, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Robbinsville, N.J.: My uncle worked at the World Trade Center. He didn’t go to work that day because I was being born. If it was just a normal day, he would have been there with everyone else. I try not to think too much about that.

Tawny, bioscience student, Virginia Beach, Va.: We’re a very military family, so that was something that hit the family very hard, especially since my dad then was eventually deployed [with the Navy] as a result of the event.

Jayna, nursing student, Vancouver, Wash.: My dad’s a firefighter and in all the photos from my birth, he’s in his uniform because he came straight from work. I was born at 6 p.m., so my mom likes to say I was the best ending to the day.

Hillary, EMT and student, Norwalk, Conn.: Every year, I’ll have a red, white and blue cake, or my mom will wrap presents in American flag paper—stuff like that—as a way to always remind ourselves what really happened that day.

Krystal, sophomore, University of Hawaii, Honolulu: When I mentioned my birthday to other people, a lot of times they ask, “Do you feel like your birthday is a sad day?”

Kiiran, architecture student, Ticonderoga, N.Y.: Growing up, that day was weird because I celebrated it a little different. I was happy, like, “Hey, it’s my birthday!” I’d wander the halls at school and everyone else is glum and all the teachers are sad and upset. That used to confuse me.

Adsel, aspiring first-grade teacher, St. Albans, Vt.: I was 10 or 11, and I was in the library and I saw this picture book series, “This happened in history,” like the Holocaust or something, and I picked one up and was like, “Oh, it’s my birthday!” I saw the pictures for the first time, and I read about the attacks. That changed everything in how I view my birthday.