“It shaped their lives.” UK professor weighs in on impact of 9/11 on students

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – As Americans honor the lives lost on September 11, what about the generation a bit too young to remember?

Eladio Bobadilla, a University of Kentucky history professor, says the tragedy has shaped his students’ lives in more ways than one.

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“In some ways they’ve had to grow up with a generational trauma that others didn’t have to experience,” says Bobadilla.

He says many of his current students were either not born before 9/11, or were really young.

“I think for older people it was a moment that changed everything for them – the way they looked at the world, the way they looked at their country.”

However, Bobadilla says their kids and grandkids don’t have memories to fall back on.

“They grew up in a world where there was no pre 9/11,” Bobadilla says. “This is all they know. All they know is a country at war.”

Bobadilla says several of his students have family in the military, some of his older students served already, and Bobadilla himself joined right after high school in response to 9/11.

He says although 9/11 has largely shaped his students’ lives, they use it to address other societal issues.

“Some of the conversations we’ve had revolve around the fact that by early April, more Americans had died from the coronavirus than died during the terrorist attacks in 2001,” Bobadilla says.

He says his students also say they think society more readily accepts foreign terrorism as a real threat, but not domestic terrorism.

“I think it’s harder for a lot of people to grapple with, to understand that, terror doesn’t always come from outside,” Bobadilla says.

He says many of his students will be first-time voters this November and these things, among others, will be on their mind.

“I’m hopeful that this is a moment not just of division, but a moment where we come together to realize what’s at stake for the future, and I think my students give my great hope that we are doing just that.”