Joey Rizzolo was six years old when he watched the events of September 11th 2001 on the news, while folding laundry with his grandma in his living room. At the time, Joey didn't understand the larger meaning of what was happening, other than planes hitting buildings. Even though he had no personal connection to 9/11, at the age of 11 Joey decided to initiate a Freedom Walk to help residents of his town, Paramus, NJ, remember and honor the victims of 9/11. Joey organizes the event with a committee of teenagers, who carry out all the fundraising, organizing, and publicity. Last year's Freedom Walk drew almost 1,000 people.
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Today is the first of the Radio Rookies series Our 9/11: Growing Up In the Aftermath. Jillian Suarez’s story is one she says she doesn't want to tell with tears. Jillian’s father, a New York City police officer, didn't come home on September 11th and for three months her mother held out hope he would be found alive -- until she received a call that his remains had been found. Now 18 years old, Jillian rarely speaks about the loss she feels. For this piece, she decided to push through her silence to sit down with some of the closest people in her life, including her mom, to talk about her father’s death and what his absence has meant in her life.
A conversation about how communities in New Jersey have changed since 9/11.