The New York Times reports:
Ashley Bright was 15 years old and on her way to school in Cottonwood, Ariz., when she stopped at a friend’s house and saw the news that two planes had hit the World Trade Center.
At the time, Ms. Bright did not even know what the twin towers were. “I had no concept of what it meant,” she said Tuesday, “except that suddenly we were saying the Pledge of Allegiance again every day and having assemblies about patriotism, and everyone was flying their flags again out of nowhere.”
Young Americans, like many others, had a variety of reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden — sadness and anger at the lives he had destroyed, questions about how much safer his death made the United States. But their response, in some notable instances, was punctuated by jubilant, if not jingoistic, celebrations.
In Washington, college students spilled in front of the White House chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A.!” and puffing cigars. In State College, Pa., 5,000 students waved flags, blew vuvuzelas, and sang the national anthem and the chorus to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” Cheering students jumped into Mirror Lake at Ohio State — as they do with big football games — and swelled the Common in Boston.
Some, like Ms. Bright, thought the celebrations excessive. But they were not surprising, she and others said, in the context of how much their young lives had been shaped by Sept. 11. For them, it set off a new emphasis on patriotism, with constant reminders from teachers and parents that it is important to be proud of being an American — a striking contrast to the ambivalence of the Vietnam years that marked their parents’ generation.
The attacks were the first time they had considered that people in the rest of the world might harbor ill will toward Americans. The experience established the world in polarities of black and white, with Bin Laden being the new emblem of evil.
“I probably wouldn’t be as appreciative of living in America if I hadn’t seen 9/11 happen and grown up in this time,” said Ms. Bright, now a graduate student at American University.
“We carry the weight of it more because our entire adult lives have been during a time of war,” she said. “The strong reaction is because it’s the first goal that has been met that we can take ownership of.”