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Every generation has defining moments—what is it for Millennials and Gen Y?

What was the most important generation-defining moment for Millennials? Was it the Internet, mobile phones, or the Apple watch? The answer is much more poignant: September 11, 2001.


Generation-defining moment

The destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 is the “JFK assassination” for U.S. Millennials. It’s their “Where were you when?” moment. Millennials can tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news, saw it on television, or read about it online. The shock, pain, and aftermath of 9/11 changed the generation forever.

The unforgettable importance of September 11, 2001 is the reason that The Center for Generational Kinetics believes that the birth years for Millennials end in 1995. While beginning and ending birth years for any generational cohort are more gray than black and white, 1995 is an undeniable stopping point for the Millennial generation.

The reason is that people born after 1995 do not remember or have the emotional connection to September 11, 2001 that those born before 1995 do. If you were born after 1995, you are simply too young to have had the real-time exposure and impact from the event. Your brain cannot process the significance of the terrorist event or put it in any context—from personal vulnerability to a geographic, religious, cultural, or other context.

Here’s another way to think about it: If September 11, 2001 has always been history to you, then you are a not a Millennial. You are part of the generation after the Millennials.

We’re just now starting to see the characteristics and trends associated with the generation after the Millennials, which we currently call iGen.

What is your generation’s defining moment? Where were you when it happened?

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