In the News
New York—On the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, young people who lost a parent that day are displaying optimism and resilience. More than 3,000 children under the age of 18 lost a parent on September 11, 2001, and more than 100 children of victims were born after the tragedy. Today they’re teenagers or young adults, making their own impact on the world.
Some kids have followed their deceased parent’s career path. Austin Vukosa even went to work for his dad’s company, Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 employees on 9/11. “Just to follow his footsteps…has been a big sense of accomplishment for me,” says Vukosa, 21.
Others are trying to prevent future terrorism or help other people. Alexandra Wald, whose dad died at the World Trade Center on her first day of high school, studied Arabic and international relations in college. “I wanted to make sure it never happened again,” says the 28-year-old.
Lindsay Weinberg, 26, works at the New York City medical examiner’s office—the same one that informed her family in 2002 that her father’s remains had been identified. Her background makes her more empathetic, she says.
A driving force for many 9/11 kids is wanting to honor their parents. Pierce O’Hagan says of his firefighter dad, “I want him to be proud of me up in heaven. Like kind of not let him die in vain.” The 16-year-old adds, “I want people to be like, ‘Oh, Tom O’Hagan’s kids, they…went on to be very good people.’”
Absent from many of the young people is a sense of hatred or bitterness. “We’re still here,” says Patrick Hannaford, 17. “We’ve rebuilt, and we’re stronger now than we were then. It’s just a good feeling to know (the terrorists) failed.”
Jessica Waring, 29, agrees. “The fact that we could rise above it shows the type of people we are. Al Qaeda and now ISIS, they’re not going to beat us.”
Sources: abcnews.go.com, cnn.com
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Discussion Starters for Student Small Groups
What emotions does September 11 bring up for you or your family? What remembrances do you, your parents, or your family members have of that day?
How does someone’s age affect the way they process and cope with difficult situations? What other factors determine how someone deals with tragedies? What difference does support from other people make, and why?
Why do you think many of the 9/11 kids have rebounded so well from major loss? What positive outcomes can result from tragic experiences?
When horrible things happen, how can people avoid falling into the traps of hatred and bitterness? Where do you find the strength and will to move on when life hurts?
To you, what does it mean to honor someone with your life? Does that mean you can’t follow your own individual dreams or desires? Why or why not?
Who do you try to make proud, and how can you tell if you’re succeeding? How has your life been a reflection—in either positive or negative ways—of the people who raised you?
Whose footsteps do you strive to walk in, and why? What does it mean to follow Jesus’ steps; how did he obey his own Father? How can you recover if you stray during your faith walk?
How have adversities affected the person you are now? the person you’re becoming? How might you be able to turn past hardships into future blessings—either for yourself or for others?
In your opinion, does being a Christian make you more resilient to life’s challenges? Why or why not? Do you welcome trials, knowing they’re strengthening your faith and character? Explain.
To you, what does it mean to “rise above” your enemies or difficulties? How does staying focused on Jesus make that possible? What does it mean to you that nothing—not even death—can separate you from Jesus’ love?
Scripture links: Genesis 50:15-21; Daniel 6:16-23, 28; John 14:27-31; Romans 8:35-39; James 1:2-4; and 1 Peter 2:19-23.