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9 11

Health

Gen Xer explains sense of 'impending doom' that seems to define the Millennial generation

Somebody finally put it into words and a lot of Millenials are feeling seen.

A woman looks to the ground in dispair.

At the end of his YouTube video “Does Anyone Else Feel Like Everything Has Changed?” self-development influencer Stephen Antonioni makes a rather haunting observation: "In many ways, the world is a better place than it was yesterday, just judging by objective measures. But I can't help share the feeling that something is off and perhaps terribly so. And therefore, I have to ask the question: Does anyone else feel like everything has changed?"

The most popular comment on the video, which was liked over 28,000 times was written by a YouTuber named Tracy Smith. Even though, at 57, she’s a Gen Xer, her thoughts have resonated with thousands of Millenials.

“I am 57. Not only does it feel like ‘something wicked this way comes’ but there is also this feeling that the whole world is holding its breath. Almost as though we are all waiting for some catalyst or sign or event that puts an end to this feeling of being put on hold,” Smith wrote. “This vague, unexplained unease we feel. Something terrible lurking just out of our field of vision but we all feel it closing in. I cannot count the number of people who have told me they wish that whatever is going to happen would just get on with it. That this waiting for the thing in the darkness is unbearable.”


The comment was shared on Reddit’s Millenials subforum, where many said it perfectly expressed how they feel about the future.

"I have never had someone put into words so accurately a feeling I didn't even realize I was having. I am wondering if any of you feel this way? Like, I realized for the last few years I have been feeling like this. I don't always think about it, but if I stop and think about this this feeling is always there in the background," RedHeadRedeemed wrote.

"The current socioeconomic situation in the US is unsustainable. Something is going to give, and relatively soon," NCRaineman replied. "I turned 21 and graduated college right around 9/11,” Seasonpositive6771 wrote. “My entire adult life has been a sense that the world is untrustworthy and unsafe to a certain degree."

Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, have lived through a unique set of circumstances. Most were children when 9-11 happened, and many were just starting out as adults when the Great Recession hit. Once the world recovered from that financial catastrophe came the politically turbulent late ‘10s and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Millennials have also experienced a technological revolution with the advent of the Internet, social media, and smartphones and have lived under the specter of climate change.

The world can also seem more dangerous to Millenials because they’ve lived in an era where fear-mongering on the news and social media is rampant and can easily present a very skewed version of the world.

Even though the years that Millenials have been alive are among the safest in American history, it’s hard to feel that way when we are exposed to so many disturbing images in the media.

Even though many Millenials look towards the future with a sense of dread, for some perspective, previous generations have had it much worse.

"Relocate to 1915 and see how the punches can keep coming for real. Try WWI where daddy is killed or f**ked up in combat when you are a child. Then the depression beginning in’ 29 then WWII takes your kid. No wonder previous generations are rough they got it honest and did what they could to not ever be broke again. They did not comprehend the damage they were doing. They had been through hell and just wanted to be ok like everyone else," InfamousOccasion wrote.

One of the commenters noted that this feeling of dread may stem from a form of collective PTSD caused by the pandemic. The American Psychological Association agrees, saying people are still healing from the 3-year ordeal that killed millions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created a collective experience among Americans. While the early-pandemic lockdowns may seem like the distant past, the aftermath remains,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer. “We cannot ignore the fact that we have been significantly changed by the loss of more than one million Americans, as well as the shift in our workplaces, school systems, and culture at large. To move toward posttraumatic growth, we must first identify and understand the psychological wounds that remain,” said Evans.

If the first step in recovering from the pandemic is recognizing the remaining psychological wounds, understanding Millenials’ sense of “impending doom” could be a key to collective healing.

Welles Crowther's senior quote in his high school yearbook was the simple adage, "There is no 'I' in team." As a lacrosse and hockey player, he lived that motto through sports. As a volunteer firefighter, he lived that motto through service. As as equities trader working on the 104th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, he lived that motto through selfless heroism that saved others' lives and cost him his own.

Crowther was just 24 years old when the planes struck. From that tragic moment until the tower fell, survivors say he led others to safety, repeatedly returning to the 78th floor lobby where people were stranded and guiding them down the one working stairway to where firefighters could take the to a working elevator. He had the opportunity to save himself—if he had gone with the first group of people he rescued, he could have made it out of the building before it collapsed. But he kept going back to save more lives.


ESPN created a beautiful video highlighting Crowther's heroism, told through the voices of his parents, teammates, colleagues, and even some whose lives he directly saved.

The Man in the Red Bandana | SC Featuredwww.youtube.com

Beginning with the red bandana Crowther had kept with him from early childhood and ending with how that bandana ultimately helped uncover the unknown details of his final hours, the tribute is a moving tale of tragedy and courage, selflessness and sacrifice. While every loss on 9/11 should be remembered, Welles Crowther deserves to have his story shared far and wide as an inspiration for us all.

At 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2017, Roy Guill woke up to a Facebook message from a man he'd never met.

The man, Eric Delman, explained that he'd been going through some stuff from 9/11 for the previous day's anniversary. He wanted to know if Guill was from Staten Island.

But it wasn't Delman's message that struck Guill. It was what Delman was wearing in his profile photo: a yellow, coal miner's helmet with a bracket on the front where the headlamp used to be and a dent in the brim.


“It was a picture of him at Ground Zero on the pile, and I looked at the picture for a second and I thought, 'Holy shit. Is that Papaw’s helmet?'"

Photo via Eric Delman.

In the wee hours of Sept. 11, 2001, Guill was passed out on his boss's couch in their midtown Manhattan office.

He was still asleep when his boss woke him with the news of the attacks a few dozen blocks away.

"The first thing I thought was, 'But it’s such a beautiful day,'" he recalls.

Like thousands of other New Yorkers living and working in the city that day, Guill's account is one of having "just missed" being swallowed up in the carnage. He had stayed the night at work after pulling a long overnight shift. Otherwise, he might have been stranded on the subway under the towers when the planes struck.

Instead, he and a colleague fled the city in a minivan they had rented the previous day.

Guill traveled nearly 200 miles that afternoon: north to Westchester County, south to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, north again to the Tappan Zee Bridge, east to Queens, and south to Brooklyn. When he finally rolled across the Verrazano, it was just after midnight on Sept. 12.

"By that point, the smell had hit us. We rolled down our window to talk to a cop, and you could smell the fire," he says.

The next morning, he and his wife Julia lined up near their Staten Island home to give blood. A nurse turned them away. "There was no one to give blood to," he recalled on Facebook.

Instead, they stocked up on soap, deodorant, and socks from a local dollar store — the only store within walking distance — and prepared to drop them at a collection point near the ferry terminal. On their way out of the house, they stopped at a coat rack by the door. The rack was covered in hats, scarves, jackets — and an an odd item that caught Guill's eye.

A yellow coal mining helmet.

He picked up a pen and a piece of paper.

When Eric Delman, an NYPD officer, arrived downtown Manhattan the afternoon of the attacks, the area was already a ruin.

"It was horrible. That stench of a lot of smoke, and that very bad — the smoke and the smell and the death," he recalls.  

The following day — or maybe the day after — Delman reported to a supply tent. It was full of respirators, work clothing, boots, and helmets. He picked out one that he liked, an "old-style" yellow miner's cap.  

Delman worked on a bucket brigade. He cleared stones. Rebar. Eventually, body parts. He would come home with his clothes covered in a thick gray dust. His wife washed them every day. He seemed haunted.

The yellow miner's helmet stayed with him the whole time. As he dug through "the pile," the mass of rubble left behind when the towers crumbled, the helmet was there. As the news of dead friends trickled in like bilge water, the helmet was there. After Delman's tour at Ground Zero ended, the helmet made its way to a shelf in his garage. Sometimes, he would take it down to look at it. One day, as he was turning it over in his hands, he gasped.

"There's a note!"

Photo by Eric Delman.

A small, creased tab of white paper was stuck to the inside. He had never noticed it before.

"To whoever wears this," it read. "This was my grandfather's helmet in the mines of Kentucky. I hope it protects you well. You are all heroes."

The note was signed, "Roy and Julia Guill."

Guill's papaw, Roy W. Guill, was born, grew up, raised seven children, worked, and died in Carrsville, Kentucky.

One of the few pictures of Papaw that remains was taken before his brief detour to the Pacific theater of World War II, where he served as a combat engineer. He never talked about it.

Roy W. Guill. Photo via Roy Guill.

Papaw wore bib overalls. Some nights, on his way home, he would save his granddaughter Angi a treat leftover from his lunchpail. When Guill told him he wanted to chew tobacco, Papaw tried to dissuade him by giving him a pinch of Prince Albert. He warned him not to swallow it — about three seconds too late.

When Papaw woke up at 5 a.m. to go to work, Guill would sit with him, nodding off between bites of pancake as his grandfather suited up in a side room near a potbellied stove. When he went off to the mine, the helmet went with him.

Papaw passed away at age 81, when Guill was 14. After the funeral, Guill's father gave his grief-stricken son the helmet.

It was the only physical reminder of his grandfather Guill possessed.

Or, it had been.

On Sept. 11, 2017, Guill took the day off from work — as he occasionally does on the anniversary of the attacks.

He rarely talks about what he saw that day 16 years earlier.

"It’s so hard, and emotionally it’s such a slog, but we were so lucky," he says.

The Facebook message from Delman was like a bolt out of the blue.

After Guill confirmed that, yes, he was from Staten Island, Delman sent a photo: the same photo Guill had seen in Delman's profile picture.

"Does this look familiar?" Delman wrote. "This is me at the time."

Photo via Eric Delman.

The photo of Delman wearing the helmet had been taken by a fellow officer shortly after the attacks. When that friend fell ill 10 years later, he found and sent the photo to Delman. This year, Delman made it his profile photo to commemorate the anniversary.

Guill had often wondered what happened to Papaw's hard hat from the mines. He worried it had been thrown out, that it hadn't been up to code, or had been overlooked in a vast sea of donated tools and gear. Here, finally, was proof: Not only had someone — Delman — used it, it had meant enough to him that he kept it.

"Honestly, I sat here in my dining room and bawled my eyes out," Guill says.

Delman is now a lieutenant who oversees the 88th Precinct's Special Operations Unit. His time at Ground Zero left him with nodules in his lungs. He gets them checked every year. So far, so good.

He told Guill to expect the helmet on his doorstep soon.

"There’s a box on my kitchen table for me to send it back," he says. Before he does, he wants to add a few touches. A T-shirt, perhaps, with some patches. Some coins. Maybe both.

It may take a while to reach its destination. Guill left New York 13 years ago. He lives in Las Vegas now. He imagines it will show up in about a week.

Guill doesn't know if he's prepared. But his papaw's helmet is coming home.

On Sept. 21, 2016, after enduring the terror of the Syrian civil war, a year living as refugees in Turkey, and almost 27 hours of flying, Samah Motlaq, her husband, Talal, and their two young children touched down in the small lakeside community of Gander, Newfoundland, on the east coast of Canada.

An iceberg floats off the coast of Newfoundland. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.


Motlaq was unsure about leaving Turkey. She liked her life there, and her kids were finally settled after years of uncertainty and upheaval. But their family had friends in Gander who urged them to join them halfway across the world.

"Honestly, all I knew about Canada is that it is very cold in winter but [that] the opportunities for living [were] much better than in Turkey," Motlaq says.

Still, she wasn't sure how welcome her family would be in a small town and foreign culture in a country she'd never visited. Little did she know that welcoming newcomers had long been Gander's brand.

15 years earlier, Gander played host when nearly 7,000 airline passengers were grounded there on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

When American airspace was closed following the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., 38 planes were forced to land in the town, whose airport is home to one of the largest runways in the area — a legacy left over from an era when aircraft had to make frequent refueling stopovers on their way to and from Europe.

With nothing but their hand luggage, travelers from six continents stepped off their planes to find food, clothes, shelter, and community waiting for them.

Stranded passengers from around the world email their relatives from Gander Academy on 9/11. Photo by Scott Cook/The Canadian Press.

Since opening its doors that day, the town has been profiled in countless articles, a Tom Brokaw documentary, and even a new Broadway musical — "Come From Away."

In 2016, Gander opened its doors once again.

For many residents who helped the stranded passengers in 2001 by preparing meals, donating the contents of their closets, and taking them into their homes, welcoming refugees displaced by war in Syria was a no-brainer.

"I really think that this has been the most rewarding experience of volunteering since 9/11," says Diane Davis, a retired elementary school teacher in Gander and a member of the committee coordinating the resettlement.

Davis, who along with several of her fellow teachers inspired a character in "Come From Away," helped launch the committee in early 2016 with the goal of bringing five Syrian families to Gander.

13-year-old Wiaam Maymouna watches the performance of "Come From Away" in Gander on Oct 29. Photo by Diane Davis.

In early June 2016, the committee received notice that the first family would be arriving in just two weeks. Thus began a mad dash to ensure the houses were fully furnished and stocked with food before they arrived.

"We felt as if we are at home from the very first moment," Motlaq says. Hers was the fourth family to arrive in town — with a fifth still on its way.

The members of the committee were used to scrambling. Just about every person on it, Davis explains, had been involved with housing, feeding, and transporting the "plane people" on 9/11.

"One day after the attack, an old lady came to me at my workplace at Walmart and she hugged me and said, 'Do not be afraid. We love you and we are with you guys.'"
— Samah Motlaq

"I’ve been able to explain to [the refugee families], 'You’re not the first people we’ve helped,'" she says. "'This is the way a community works together. These are the kinds of things we take care of.'"

Resettling the families in Gander, Davis explains, is also an opportunity to revitalize the town, which has evolved into a "retirement community" in recent years.

"We’re a province that has an aging demographic," she says. "We’re a province that has a declining population. We’re a community that has employment and housing. We’ve got a good, strong school system here."

As a former educator who lives across the street from her old classroom, Davis has taken the lead in getting the refugee children, who range in age from 2 to 13, adjusted to their new school.

"I retired in June on a Friday and the first family arrived on a Tuesday. So retirement was three days long," Davis says.

New Gander residents Iman Halawany and her husband, Samer Maymouna, watch their son Abed in his kindergarten Christmas program. Photo by Diane Davis. Photos used with permission.

Her role involves everything from translation to registering the kids for classes to liaising with the parents in case of emergency. When one boy was getting in frequent trouble because he couldn't ask for help, Davis wrote her phone number in his notebook and, with the help of Google Translate, explained that whenever he needed anything, he could show it to his teacher.

For Motlaq, who was born in Palmyra, Syria's cultural capital, living in quiet Gander has been an adjustment from big-city life.

While she misses the activity, she is grateful for her new job at Walmart and the safety, quiet, and fellowship of the community — particularly after a deadly shooting that claimed six lives at the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec.

"One day after the attack, an old lady came to me at my workplace at Walmart and she hugged me and said, 'Do not be afraid. We love you and we are with you guys,'" Motlaq says.

The conversation left her with a profound affection for her new adopted home. "I knew that day that Canada represents humanity and equality regardless religion or race."

Five months before "Come From Away" opened on Broadway, the cast and crew flew to Newfoundland for two VIP performances in the Gander hockey rink.

Diane Davis and partner Leo McKenna at the premiere of "Come From Away" in New York City. Photo by Diane Davis.

Before the show arrived, Davis asked Irene Sankoff, the musical's co-writer, for tickets for the eight Syrian adults. The production responded with tickets for all four families, including the children.

Explaining the concept of the performance to the newcomers, many of whom have limited English skills, was a challenge at first.  

"They weren’t sure if they were going to see a hockey game," Davis says. After showing them pieces of the NBC documentary, they began to connect their experience to that of the "plane people" 15 years earlier.

The group also met the cast and creative team of the show — many of whom continue to support the resettlement effort with financial aid and, this past December, a trove of Christmas gifts.

"Santa Claus brought [the kids] sleds this year," Davis says. "That may or may not have come via New York."

For the families just finding their footing, the support has been invaluable. But for those who do speak English, like Motlaq and her husband, it was the performance, with its message of finding community amid chaos, that resonated the loudest.

"It is similar to our story," she says.

"We came from away too."