ON A GENERATION

Last September, a new generation, living without a cause in the shadow of the 'greatest generation,' received its great calling. Now it stands against evil, united together, to the admiration of those who battled evil's last threat to freedom.

After Sept. 11, many young adults began to evaluate the relevance of life. For a generation that was almost crisis-free and faced adversity on its own terms, Sept. 11 was a call for unification on national terms.

Physically alive but spiritually dead, college campuses across the country gathered together in candlelight vigils and prayer ceremonies for an event that once seemed beyond comprehension. For a moment in our generation's history, sex, race and social status weren't a factor.

Ball State students gathered outside Emens Auditorium last September in a candlelight vigil in memory of the victims. Ball State president Blaine Brownell chose not to cancel classes in reaction to a call for strength and resistance to the fear of the unknown.

Today, we look back as an undefeated generation. Those values instilled in us were called into question and then reinforced through our actions in the following months.

Daniel Stallings, director of office of leadership and service learning, said the result was a young generation reacting with its heart.

"This is a critical event that if there is some good to come out of it, there's an opportunity for us to be nationally and intentionally reflective of our situation," Stallings said. "This gives us an opportunity individually and collectively to dialogue a future for ourselves ... The dialogue that goes on in our own heads like, 'How can I make a difference in the world?'"

According to Stallings, many Ball State students asked the same question.

"Individually, people found personal acts of courage after 9/11. The heroes are each of us and I think in many ways each of us have demonstrated that," Stallings said.

Stallings said both faculty and students sought out volunteer opportunities as a way to demonstrate local concern about global issues. Other students on campus expressed their emotions through participation in academic courses and artistic impression.

According to assistant professor of sociology, Dr. Carolyn Kapinus, post 9/11 class discussions became more in-depth. Kapinus said her students were more aware of what was going on in the third-world generation and the topic of gender equality. Most students were unaware of the restrictions against Afghanistan women before the attacks, she said.

"College students are much more aware of the connection between the U.S. and other nations," Kapinus said. "Although it may not seem to not affect us on the surface, it will.

"The thing that I have picked up from people in my classes is that certainly JFK's assassination had the effect of 9/11 but they are so much different. One of the ways it has affected people is that now flying is so much more different and complicated, and people are more afraid of being in tall buildings. I had a student who told me once she thought about 9/11 every day since then ... even though it's scary to lose a president, it's a different fear we have."

For many, that "different" fear sparked a new fixation on the news and current events. Freshman Joanna Pardue found herself like many other young adults.

"I wasn't forced to watch because of the situation, but because of the situation and because it was such a big deal, I was more interested in the news," Pardue said.

"Actually, I was just talking to my friend yesterday and I started watching the news again lately because she was talking about Sept. 11 and I was thinking about how I don't even have a clue. I never watch the news, and I don't know what's going on in the world. So, thinking about that made me kind of want to keep in touch with what's going on."

According to Stallings, the rise in civic concern that has become institutionalized amongst young adults has impressed the generation's predecessors. Stallings said he hopes to see these trends continue.

"I recently heard a story about young executives in businesses now being perceived by corporate environment as valuable because of their concern for local environment," Stallings said. "I think we're going to a have a generation that's really going to develop some passion and leadership."

Stallings said this passion has not been forced, but is an indirect result of young Americans searching to find a voice and a need to find some way to direct energies at this point in their lives.

"I think what it's doing is allowing people to seek out their passions and feel empowered to do that and make a difference," Stallings said. "This generation in general is very concerned about being actively engaged in solving problems around them - not just directly related to "What do I do today to get the job?"

According to Stallings, earlier generations were more career focused due to the values that became a norm and were expected. Our generation began to balance both in the midst of tragedy.

"In the 60s there was a focus on causes that shifted to a very career-oriented generation," he said. "Now we have to be concerned about hunger, homelessness and poverty - these are issues that are societal and global issues."

According to Stallings, students today are faced with the question of "How can I bring my passion into my vocation and avocation together?" This question allows them to not have to make a choice of abandoning a career life to focus on passion.

"It might be bringing us into balance," Stallings said.

While America heals, life for the today's college student has changed indefinitely. According to Kapinus, Sept. 11 occurred during a defining moment.

"The age group that people are in college [is when] people's identities are still developing and it's a time where you really become separate from your parents and you begin to think about things you really take for granted," she said. "You think about the meaning of the life you're going to have separately - and then you think about the huge human toll that's going to shape the way people feel about traveling and human international relations. You re-examine what is meaningful in lives."

However, the question still remains: Will Sept. 11, 2002 be any different than Sept. 11, 2001?

"I certainly think that a lot of people are going to think about what things were like a year ago," Kapinus said. "They'll think about reactions and their feelings. Anytime you have some sort of anniversary like that it's going to bring up a lot of the feelings people actually felt when that happened."


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