On Thursday, President Barack Obama laid a wreath at Ground Zero, to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Less than a week after the death of Osama bin Laden, many consider this a moment of closure. We’ve heard from pundits, politicians and everyday citizens. But one group that got a little lost in the shuffle are the folks who were children in September 2001. Almost ten years later, those individuals are now adults.
Many young New Yorkers have made their homes far from downtown Manhattan, including here in Chicago. WBEZ intern Kate Dries is one of them. She told Eight Forty-Eight her story and the stories of four others who were affected by the events of September 11:
When the first tower fell, my mother yelled “Run!” and we did just that for several blocks. A low, deep rumbling noise filled the air. I do not remember the dust, only the feeling that I was going to die, at that very moment.
On September 11, 2001, I was twelve years old.
I walked with my mother and younger sister across downtown Manhattan, away from the site. People around us also wandered, all attempting to get somewhere, but without any real understanding of where that place was.
My family ended up at a friend’s apartment in SoHo. We stayed there for two weeks until returning to our home downtown.
It would be five months until I returned to my middle school.
But like the death of someone you love, 9/11 has never left my consciousness; it is always there, lurking in the background.
So on Sunday night, when the news of Osama Bin Laden popped up on my TV, it forced the memories of that day back into the forefront of my mind.
I’ve been living in Chicago for the past five years. Because I do not live in New York anymore, the place where Bin Laden did so much damage seems very far away.
And the news of his death doesn’t mean anything to me.
9/11 isn’t about terrorism when you are twelve years old. You are old enough to know what was going on, but young enough to not really understand the magnitude of the event.
Much like those who have experienced natural disasters like tornadoes or tsunamis, the meaning is in the simple things – your home, your bed, your school are all different. And all you want is for life to go back to the way it used to be.
Many young New Yorkers shared my experience; some are now living in Chicago.
Adit Tata was just starting his fourth day of high school on September 11th, at Stuyvesant High, mere blocks from the World Trade Towers. In the months to come, Stuyvesant would act as a staging area for relief efforts aiding Ground Zero. He is now living in Hyde Park.
Jaime Lyn Beatty was in 8th grade at Baruch Middle School on East 23rd Street in Manhattan. She’s now an actress living in Lakeview.
Across the river, Catherine Lee was a 7th grader living in Brooklyn.
Dove Barbanel was eight years old on 9/11. He’s now a freshman at U of C, and would have liked to have been home on Sunday.
The voices of the families of the victims who died on September 11th, are all well-documented, as they should be.
But as a young person who lived hyper-local through this international tragedy, 9/11 is the defining moment of my life.
Osama bin Laden’s death brings 9/11 back to the national consciousness, but for me and a young generation of New Yorkers, it never left.