I was born on October 11th, 2001.

In any other year, this day would have been just another Halloween costume-finding and pumpkin carving day in October. Yet in 2001, this day served as the one-month anniversary of the worst terrorist attack our nation had ever experienced, 9/11.

While I was laying in my mother’s arms for the first time, the news was still streaming it on the daily, people would stop in streets at the sight of a plane, and rubble still covered Ground Zero at the Pentagon and New York. It was a time of great fear, a time when Americans were uncertain of everything and a time when people feared what tomorrow would bring.

But that tomorrow, the one that was so terrifying to imagine, brought us. It was in those darkest moments that we became a generation of hope, a generation of children that proved life goes on.

Although the world was forever changed, we still learned to walk and talk. We learned to make friends and to appreciate family. We learned how to use technology to better our world and to use our talents to inspire others. We learned to fight for what we believed in and to never give up on our dreams.

We learned to do all of these things despite the climate we grew up in and as of March 2020 we had three more months to learn how to do our last task of childhood — we had to learn how to say goodbye. Yet, those three months were cut short due to this global pandemic that even the class with 20/20 vision never saw coming.

Just like the time we were born in, we are now graduating in the same uncertainty, the same fear of what life will be like. Every radio station, every news channel, and every social media post is full of doubt for the future and questions that can all be summed up into: “Will our world ever be the same?”

The simple answer, although hard to hear is no — the world as we knew it will never be the same but neither was it after 9/11, and in that world we proved time and time again that we are resilient and we will persevere.

Despite a global pandemic, we are graduating and moving forward to greater things. Once again we are the hope for the world in a dark time, a generation made to lead. We will continue to face challenges in life that will forever alter our future, but as time has shown, our ability to be courageous, to break barriers, and to never give up will be our greatest asset in overcoming them. Congratulations Class of 2020, we did it!

Thank you again,

Jillian Ryan

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ryan will attend the College of New Jersey in the fall, and plans to major in physics and secondary education; her goal is to get a master’s degree in Integrative STEM education.