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Alexander Spring

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Generation 9/11

Posted: 10/24/11 10:55 AM ET

Growing up in New York City, the twin towers were an unmistakable landmark not just in the city itself but also in everyone's mind and heart. On September 9,2001, the night before my first day of first grade, my mom and I sat on our terrace together. The terrace faces south toward the Twin Towers and it was a rare occasion that my mom and I would use it. Yet for some reason that night we sat out under the clear sky and counted all the airplanes that would fly overhead. It was a mother-and-son moment that I never thought would have so much significance.

Every morning I would wake up to the image of two buildings standing tall. The morning of September 11, 2001 was no different. It was now my second day of first grade. Halfway through the morning my classmate came into the class late and said that there was a building on fire and that her bus was late. We all thought nothing of it. Soon after, we were dismissed and little did we know that our country was under attack. That evening I was welcomed home to a block filled with military personnel. I lived next to St. Vincent's hospital, the hospital that received the bulk of trauma patients from the World Trade Center site. In the months following, my mom never tried to hide me from any of the events that happened on that day. Other parents would in an attempt to "preserve their child's innocence."

My school created a 9/11 memorial project that we submitted to be chosen as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition winner. Headed by Bridgid McGinn, my art teacher at the time of the attacks, the memorial design had two piers with a pathway of names of the ones lost on that day. There would be a sand box, jungle gym; really what any kid would want. It was all thought out and created by six and seven-year-olds. I believe it was our way of coping with the disaster and facing what really happened head on. And though of course our design was never chosen as the final memorial, it showed the resilience of the youth impacted by the events on that day and how we personally overcame that struggle that everyone in our community was facing.

Being part of generation 9/11 was not something I, or anyone of my generation, chose. For years I would hear countless news stories on increased security, new threats to my city, and the stalemate that was the rebuilding process. Yet now more than ever there is visible progress of our recovery. It is an eerie but exciting feeling to wake up and look out my window and see new buildings with so much meaning being erected, and to watch One World Trade Center reclaim the New York skyline one floor at a time.