Growing Up After Sept. 11

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There's a whole generation of kids who don't have much memory of life before Sept. 11, 2001. Even so, many of them have a before-and-after mentality about that day. A look at the attacks' impact on the "millennial generation."

GUY RAZ, Host:

There's a whole generation of kids who don't have much memory of life before September 11, 2001. Even so, many of them have a before-and-after mentality about that day as NPR's Zoe Chace discovered in New York City.

ZOE CHACE: Kids don't like to be left out.

STACY OLIVER: It was a really confusing time because I was 8 years old, in the 4th grade, no one was saying anything, but, I mean, you can sense that something's wrong.

CHACE: This is Stacy Oliver. She's from Connecticut, 18 years old.

OLIVER: And I had to pick up bits and pieces of information from wherever I could and try to piece this thing together that I just felt really oblivious and left out.

CHACE: I'm sitting with the cast of a show that opens tomorrow in downtown New York. It's called "Ten Years Later: Voices from the Post-9/11 Generation Speak." It's kids from all over the East Coast brought here by two local theater groups. Though they've been obsessing about how 9/11 shaped their lives for months, most of them never saw New York skyline before the towers fell. And oddly enough, they haven't talked about it much before now.

OLIVER: I mean, we hear all about all these other wars and events and the Titanic sinking, but never have we ever had a conversation about 9/11 in all of my years in school.

CHACE: I heard this over and over again. You'd think kids this age have discussed 9/11 ad nauseum. But nearly all of them told me they hadn't talked about it enough. Tiffany Amber DiGrazia is 10. She's from Queens.

TIFFANY AMBER DIGRAZIA: I know my mom had lost a lot of friends and people she knew in 9/11, and she never really realized how much she didn't tell me.

CHACE: Eleven-year-old Kate Bralower is from Manhattan, and she was in the same boat. Yet she created her own pre and post-9/11 experience.

KATE BRALOWER: The world really changed. People have gotten, I think, more racist without even knowing it. Like, you see these people, and there will be someone in, like, a turban and something and they'll look at them and they won't want to sit next to them on the subway or on the bus because I don't even know. It's like they don't know why and it's just kind of...

CHACE: Is there a way that you can picture your life being different if 9/11 hadn't happened?

BRALOWER: Well, I definitely think that we would've gone on a lot more vacations. I mean, I can't...

CHACE: Kate's older brother developed a fear of flying after 9/11. Now she and the other kids scramble into dress rehearsal.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You have to make sure you're in your space and say your line, so whatever that means you need to do it.


CHACE: Many of their skits relive that day when they were so little. Not one of them mentions an adult who explains matters to them. Some of them have lost family members or classmates in the ensuing wars. Some just get freaked out when the subway grinds to a sudden halt. In the show, all of them are trying to make sense of where they fit into this big national story. Monica Fermin(ph) is 15.

MONICA FERMIN: When I read about the 9/11 attacks, all that goes through my head is I was there. I was alive when that happened.

CHACE: But there is one girl, Deanna. She's 16 and she's not struggling as much as the others to make sense of what 9/11 meant. Her life was different before and after.

DEANNA IBRAHIM: Since I was, I think, seven, I always used my middle name, Deanna Alexandra, instead of my last name, which is Ibrahaim.

CHACE: Deanna's mother is Italian and her dad is Egyptian. The night of September 11, 2002, people in Deanna's town of Oyster Bay, Long Island, lit candles in memoriam. Deanna's family didn't. Her mom hates candles. Deanna's best friend stopped talking to her after that.

IBRAHIM: I always thought it was really cool to be Egyptian, but something that 9/11 did is kind of like - I've kind of realized that some people don't think that.

CHACE: There's one thing all these kids know for sure, we were there. But what it means to them is a work in progress, just like it is for a lot of the grownups around them.

Zoe Chace, NPR News, New York.

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