A recent BBC News Outlet post shared interviews with thousands of millennial during which they were asked what they believed the most significant historical event of their lifetime had been. Participants were given options that ranged in significance from the Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton 2017 presidential election to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. While events tend to shape history in unique and impact ways, studies show that the citizens alive during those events often do not notice the significance of those changes until much later in life.
The BBC article ranked the average top 10 most significant events in the lives of modern Americans and included the September 11th terrorist attacks, several of the most recent presidential elections, the election of Barack Obama (the first African American President), the beginning of the Iraq War, the Gulf War, World War II, the explosion of the Challenger space craft, and several mass shootings including Columbine, Sandy Hook, and the shooting at the Orlando night club. Each of these events was ranked according to general significance in American history and according to their individual impact on economic output, civilian safety, perceived importance, and cultural and political impacts.
While it recognized that all of the historic events included in the ranking data sheet hold an important place in the collective American psyche, the BBC also recognized the fact that some events held higher places than others according to social groups and cultural status. The election of Barack H. Obama, for instance, was the only event that ranked higher than the September 11th terrorists attacks for African Americans. In every other ethnic group of Americans, the terrorists attacks ranked highest in the list of impactful historic American events. Similarly, the silent generation ranked World War II and the challenger explosion as having a much higher impact on the American economic and political system than events like the Iraq War or the challenger explosion. Generation X was more likely to include events such as the assassination of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.