It felt weird and a bit wrong to let the day slip by without saying anything. This is my second September 11 abroad. I don’t remember anything about the first time, other than the fact that I was in Prague. Coming from a country in which the day is practically sacred, where it is a day to wave flags and play Lee Greenwood and have moments of silence, it was weird to be in Korea and to only notice the date on my iCal. I should have turned on AFN, but my television hasn’t been plugged in for months and the thought just slipped my mind.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re going to be defined as the Sept. 11 generation. Wikipedia tells me that according to one analysis, I am a part of Generation Y, but it (and Elwood Carlson) also says that generation ended in 2001, a result of ” ‘political and social challenges’ after the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

You don’t forget where you were. You don’t forget Mr. Sullivan’s world history class, or another history teacher bursting in and yelling, “Two separate planes just hit the Twin Towers! Turn on CNN!” You don’t forget Mr. Sullivan telling you that this is history in the making. You don’t forget the next class, Mr. Stein’s honors English class. You don’t forget Stein’s words to you: “JFK’s assassination was defined my generation. This will define yours.” You don’t forget looking up at the clear blue sky the next afternoon, shocked at how clear and blue it is, when only 90 miles south the sky is gray and filled with smoke and ash. You don’t forget worrying about your uncle who works in the city, and who, you learn later on, got home safely by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. You don’t forget the memorial services or the breaking news updates on CNN, or watching 7 World Trade Center fall, or wondering in the days and weeks following if fires were still burning.

After Sept. 11, everyone said “Never forget.” A search of that phrase pulls up dozens of sites about Sept. 11. I think that perhaps those words aren’t an order to remember, but a statement of fact. Never forget. It’s not that we run the risk of doing so, it’s that we can’t forget it. Now, eight years later, we are saying those two words. But we’re not going to forget, much as some of us may want to. It’s a part of our history as a nation and as a generation. It set the stage for the next decade–wars, invasions, and a word that until that day in September had rarely been used: terrorism.

I guess we are the September 11 generation. My kids will ask me about it like I asked my parents about JFK and Camelot, like I asked my grandparents about the second World War, and I’ll tell them what I remember. Which is, for better or worse, almost everything, because like most Americans who watched the towers fall, I can’t forget.