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For These Local 20-Year-Olds, There Was Never A 'Before 9/11'08:17
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The 9/11 Memorial at the Public Garden on Sept. 10, 2020 in Boston. (Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)
The 9/11 Memorial at the Public Garden on Sept. 10, 2020 in Boston. (Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

The young adults born in 2001 are too young to remember the 9/11 attacks or their immediate aftermath first hand. But it's still an event that has shaped nearly every aspect of their lives.

"I've never known a world without terrorism or a war on terror," said Emily Childs, a Tufts University student from Somerville who was born on Sept. 11, 2001. "I have nothing else to reference except for this post-9/11 America."

Emily Childs, a Tufts University student from Somerville who was born on Sept. 11, 2001. (Courtesy Emily Childs)
Emily Childs, a Tufts University student from Somerville who was born on Sept. 11, 2001. (Courtesy Emily Childs)

"It's kind of felt to me like the backdrop of the America that I know," said Eric Zhao, a Tufts University student from Lexington, who was born in 2001. "Kind of like how perhaps the Cold War or Vietnam felt to people older than me."

Eric Zhao, a Tufts University student from Lexington, who was born in 2001. (Courtesy Eric Zhao)
Eric Zhao, a Tufts University student from Lexington, who was born in 2001. (Courtesy Eric Zhao)

While many people who lived through the attacks remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they first heard or saw what was happening, people born in 2001 have had to watch archived footage of the tragedy.

James Chang-Davidson, a student at Northeastern University who was also born in 2001, remembers seeking out videos online.

James Chang-Davidson, a student at Northeastern University. (Courtesy James Chang-Davidson)
James Chang-Davidson, a student at Northeastern University. (Courtesy James Chang-Davidson)

"I don't believe that I was actually shown the footage in school. I think that I had to find it myself online," he said. "I had this almost dark curiosity to be like 'what was it really like?' "

And when he finally watched the videos?

"Watching the footage of 9/11 and just thinking to myself 'That doesn't look real,' " he recalled. "It looks too surreal, too shocking to actually be real."

"I think about how it impacts the way I interpret government, the way I think about national security," said Sammy Haines, a college student from Belmont, another 2001 baby. He disagrees with widespread surveillance carried out by the United States government in its effort to prevent future terrorist attacks.

"Other people who lived through [9/11] might think 'It's to stop that' and it's a fear of that," Haines said. "While I'm in no place to judge that person for having that view for having [lived through 9/11], I think I have a different view."

Some of the people born in 2001 can understand the easy ability for some to recall where they were during 9/11 now that they have experienced the coronavirus pandemic.

"We'll always remember where we were when we got the announcements that we would not be going back to school," said Childs. "It's a trauma response. It's a generational trauma and it's something we all have a memory of."

Haines does not think the two events are exactly parallel and that will reflect on how people recall them in the future.

"From everything I hear, 9/11, at the very least, people were together in that moment," Haines said. "I can't say the same about the current moment."

This segment aired on September 9, 2021.

Dan Guzman Twitter Senior Producer, Morning Edition
Dan Guzman is senior producer for Morning Edition at WBUR.

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