Our 9/11: Growing Up in the Aftermath

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To mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, WNYC formed a partnership with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum to share the stories of six young people from the region who are part of the last generation of young people who remember 9/11 as a lived experience, rather than a historic event. Their reports are part of the Radio Rookies series, a WNYC initiative that provides teenagers with the tools and training to create radio stories about themselves, their communities and their world.

Three of the young people are products of the city's school system. All of them give voice to grief, pain, and loss, but also resilience, altruism and courage. Take a listen.


Radio Rookies

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 9/11 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, who lives in Queens, rarely speaks about her loss. For this piece, she decided to push through her silence to sit down with some of the closest people in her life, including her mother, to talk about her father’s death and what his absence has meant to her.


Radio Rookies

Joey Rizzolo was six years old when he watched the events of Sept. 11, 2001 on TV, while folding laundry with his grandmother in his living room. At the time, Joey didn't understand the larger meaning of what was happening. All he knew was that planes had hit buildings. When he started to understand a little better what he saw, Joey decided to initiate a Freedom Walk to help residents of his town, Paramus, N.,. remember and honor the victims of 9/11. Last year's Freedom Walk drew almost 1,000 people.


Radio Rookies

Eric Leinung, a Brooklyn native was 12 years old when his older brother, Paul, went to work on the 100th floor of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Paul didn't make it out. When adolescents are faced with a traumatic event, research shows that they often vent their feelings through aggression and rage. Eric spent his teenage years fighting, sometimes physically, with his mother. Now a young adult, Eric reports on how he found his way through his family's loss, partly by channeling his grief into being an actor. He currently has a weekend gig in the "shadow cast" of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."


Radio Rookies

After the death of Osama bin Laden, young people took to the streets to celebrate and there was discussion in the media about a "9/11 Generation,” the young people who came of age after the attacks. Brendan Illis was a first-grader in suburban New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001, and he has only vague memories of that day. Even so, he feels shaped by the events and their aftermath and hopes to join the military. His younger siblings, who don't remember 9/11, feel little connection to it. Brendan reports on whether or not his peers and younger siblings feel that 9/11 affected their world view. He asks the question: is there, in fact, a “9/11 generation”?


Radio Rookies

Norhan Basuni from Brooklyn divides her life into the time before September 11th, and the time after. For her, it is the day that she became a symbol of Islam and, to some, of terrorism. In the wake of the attacks, she remembers her father telling her she could no longer wear hijab because he feared for her safety after family friends were attacked in the street. She was taunted by classmates in school. She found herself having to represent and explain an entire religion, which was tarnished by the depraved acts of a few. Now an accomplished 21-year-old college graduate, Norhan reports on how she coped with these experiences as a pre-teen and teenager.


Radio Rookies

Erin Reeg’s parents were paramedics when they met and fell in love. They went on to become a firefighter and a nurse who instilled in their two daughters the ability to react calmly in a crisis and to not respond to adversity with too much emotion. When the first tower fell on Sept. 11, 2001, Erin's father was hit by falling debris and all the coping strategies Erin learned from her parents kicked in. She and her sister went about life as usual, even though their father spent two weeks in the hospital, coming out a changed man. Erin interviews her parents and sister about the days, months and years that followed.

The full 9/11 Radio Rookies series can be heard here.