9/11 through the eyes of those barely alive to see it

This morning, police and firefighters led a memorial in Old City to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, honoring the first responders who died rescuing people from New York’s twin towers.

Some who attended the ceremony on this 12th anniversary were young enough to have grown up entirely in a post-9/11 world.

Listening respectfully in the back row, Junior ROTC member Rafael Rivera said that he doesn’t remember much from the day they’re commemorating because, at the time, he was four years old.

He has second-hand knowledge of the attacks.

“I heard a lot of my teachers say that when the towers fell and everything all the dust and debris went into the stations and it caused massive chaos.”

The cadet also had a teacher who told him about his then-roommate from Afghanistan.

“After 9/11,” Rivera recounted, “people started throwing rocks at him. People started saying ‘Get out of the country’ every time he walked into a store. They would get scared, like if he had a bomb on him or something.”

A bell was rung for the firefighters, for the police officers and for the others killed in the attacks and aftermath.

In a sign of how the legacy of the tragedy has endured and expanded, they also rang the bell for the four Americans killed in the attack one year ago on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Isabella Webster, is a flutist with the Council Rock High School South’s marching band from Bucks County.  Even though she lived through 9/11, she says the catastrophe feels surreal.

“I think about — I have a lot of family members in the armed forces, and I know my best friend’s dad is a policeman, and it’s just the kind of things that people are willing to do to like restore — I want to say almost restore faith in humanity. They’ll put their lives on the line and it’s just kind of amazing that people are willing to do that, because I know I’d be pretty scared to.”

On that September 11, Webster was three years old.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.