‘My soul hurts’ — L.A. Youth alums respond to the 9/11 attacks

By L.A. Youth staff and readers,
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I cried for them

My aunt called from Michigan and told us to turn on the television. I almost thought it was a joke at first. Everything looked too Hollywood—people running, fireballs, what looked like a nuclear winter—but then I finally realized I was watching CNN. All the way to school, you could see people listening in their cars, someone sobbing, another too thoughtful to be just daydreaming. By the time I got to school I was nearly in tears as well. I thought I could stick it out, but as I held another sobbing girl, it hit me harder, and the tears came. People asked me if I was crying because I had family there, and I did, but it wasn’t that. The girl I held said she was crying for the victims. I was crying for their families.

I was disgusted by people who tried to brush this away. I heard around me “Places get bombed like this every day,” and “Do you think this will affect the Madonna concert?” I wanted to scream, “Don’t you get it? This is really big! This is happening to us! Just because we weren’t there, doesn’t mean we have no responsibility toward it! A part of our history has just ended! This is what they put in the textbooks!”

That is not to say that everyone was so insensitive. More people, like me, openly cried. In an odd way, to see it made me feel better. If so many people cared so much, then maybe we had a chance.

School ended early. When I got home, my mother saw my face and hugged me tight. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Sorry for what?”

“I’m sorry my generation had to leave you with this.”

That night we went outside and listened to the total quiet in the sky. The grounding of planes was more than a safety issue to me. It was a day of silence for those who died, and those who care.
—Tory Fine, 16, Marlborough School

Watching the news all day at school

In English class my teacher told us, “If your innocence has not been lost already, it has probably been lost today.” We flipped on the television, and I witnessed horrors that looked like they had been copied and pasted from a movie onto the news channels.

Throughout four of the five periods of the school day, we sat transfixed in front of various television screens and watched buildings blow up, smoke and debris smack into video cameras, and screaming bodies fall from the sky. Hostilities against other students and teachers ceased to matter in light of this terrible tragedy. Students and teachers alike walked about campus as if in another world, sharing cell phones, which under normal circumstances are against school policy, and talked about nothing else.

Over and over again I hear politicians with huge bags under their eyes say that this tragedy is an attack on our freedom. I don’t know whether it is an attack on our American mentality that we are top dog and nothing can touch us, a crazed act of hatred against the people of the United States, or an act with motives I cannot even begin to fathom. What I do know is that adults and children in this country have lost something precious besides comrades and family: we have lost our sense of security. The best thing we can do now is to try and go on with our lives and lose ourselves in the mundane normality of routine, as difficult as that may be.

This tragedy is shattering and I have no idea what action to take and neither does anybody else. All we can really do is hope, and if we believe in a higher power, pray, as we struggle to hunt the culprits and rebuild New York and our collective mentality as Americans.
—Alexandra Toumanoff, 17, University HS

At first it seemed like a normal day

When I turned on National Public Radio at 6:45 a.m., I couldn’t believe what I heard. Two planes crashing into the World Trade Center? It didn’t come clear to me then. That at least thousands were dead, that New York was in a state of chaos, that this was the worst act of terrorism in the world history … Even when the principal in my school announced at 8 a.m. that he’s sending all students home, I didn’t realize the seriousness of this accident. Here in L.A., as I was driving home, it felt like a normal day. Outside my school office, everything was peaceful.

But when I came home and turned on the TV, I was dismayed and overwhelmed. I felt sick to my stomach. This is America, this isn’t supposed to happen. This is supposed to happen in movies. Then I remembered my cousin in the D.C. area and friends in East Coast. I sent an e-mail right away asking them to answer me back if they are all right. Thank God, my friends were OK. Two of them were in a school three blocks away from WTC, and they saw everything: people jumping off the building, clouds that exploded when buildings collapsed, the inferno that second plane created, etc.

I am still in a shock. I would like to offer my condolences to everybody across America and hope that everybody can overcome this tragedy.
—Richard Kwon, 17, Loyola HS

Maybe we’ll appreciate America more now

I think some good can come from this tragedy, and it seems that kids are already participating in some justifiable patriotism. This morning students actually stood and said the Pledge of Allegiance instead of bored murmurs. It’s a shame that it took this to remind us how wonderful America is, but that doesn’t make this reminder a negative thing.
—Krissi Dukes, 17, El Camino Real HS

A crisis for our generation

As an American teenager used to a world of video games, great music and happy endings, I must say that THIS IS SCARY! War? Terrorist attacks? Not in our world … not in America. What about the American Dream? This seems more like a nightmare. This sort of stuff is only supposed to be for the summer box office, and boring history classes, not real life … right? I mean sure, previous generations have experienced similar crises such as the Cold War, World War II and the Gulf War, but Pearl Harbor Part II?

This surreal turn of events has left me pondering life and its value. What kind of person would willingly kill thousands of people, while sacrificing themselves as well? What kind of people are out there that are so willing to kill the innocent, just to get a point across? Such questions make me afraid of what’s waiting for me on the outside of my apartment door. Such questions make me uncertain of what my life will bring…or not. It raises the question: does anyone use words anymore?

I urge everyone who reads this to take a moment … stop … breathe the air around you … make sure the people you love know you love them … take some alone time for deep reflection … and realize that life and death are bigger than all of us. It’s human nature to think “it can never happen to us” … NEWS FLASH people, it just did.
—Lauren Spalding, 16, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies

This reminds us that America is wonderful

I think some good can come from this tragedy, and it seems that kids are already participating in some justifiable patriotism. This morning students actually stood and said the Pledge of Allegiance instead of bored murmurs. It’s a shame that it took this to remind us how wonderful America is, but that doesn’t make this reminder a negative thing.
—Krissi Dukes, 17, El Camino Real HS

I felt scared

Being an immigrant, living in the city with the second largest population, and going to a high school in downtown, I felt scared. Trying to imagine how many lives were lost and being grateful I’m back home, two months ago I was on the East Coast in New Jersey and Philadelphia. Chatting with my friend that lives in D.C. she told me “A lot of my friends’ parents died today.” Now I see life in a new way. We are not controlling our lives but a Higher Force is.
—Mariana Zamboni, 17, Belmont HS

How parents should talk to their kids

Soothing words. Parents: Don’t think just because your teens are not responding to your soothing words, that they don’t want to hear it. Whatever you say will be reassuring, but we just don’t like to express our emotions as well as others do.
—Caroline Park, 16, South Pasadena HS

It’s not fair

I don’t think it’s fair to go to parents for answers in situations like these. They themselves are most likely confused and just as shocked as we are.
—Diana Park, 16, La Cañada HS

Be straightforward

I’m not sure how parents should go about telling their younger children, but as far as teenagers go, I think we are well aware of what is going on and our parents should just be as straight forward as possible and tell us the facts, (if we haven’t already seen it all in the news).

My mother didn’t really talk to me about, it was more like I was telling her what happened. Between school and the news, when I came home I knew much more about it than she did. The whole thing is awful and scary. I also think it’s really weird that when our children are in school, they will have a whole section in their history book recalling all the events of today. I also think that calling what happened today a “Pearl Harbor” is underrating the entire situation in terms of casualties. In Pearl Harbor 2,400 people died. Between the planes, the Pentagon, the twin towers, and the people outside of the twin towers there may be considerably more casualties than in Pearl Harbor.
—Ana Cikara, 16, James Monroe High School

What was and what is now …       October 11, 2001

With the nation united in the task of dissolving the newfound enemy, one should consider what was important before September 11th.

A month ago, Gary Condit and his missing mistress, Chandra Levy, were almost celebrities due to the massive coverage of the media. Aaliyah’s death shocked. Flags were only seen on watch towers and municipal stations; and if a civilian was caught with one outside their door, they were deemed a Republican.

A month ago, people flew the friendly skies with the single worry of whether or not their cookies will be fresh or not. The word Taliban meant little. Peter Jennings aired from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and then it was time for Jeopardy.

A month ago, public workers were considered ignorant, self-indulging mongrels, with the police commonly termed as “porkers.” The Pledge of Allegiance was a forgotten hymn, along with Amazing Grace or America the Beautiful. Fire fighters were considered to be the ideal high school drop outs and the paramedics unit were looked upon as nerdy kids.

A month ago, the World Trade Center stood.

The world has truly changed since then, perhaps for the better. This striking proclamation may be taken harshly. After all, 5000 or more people died on September 11th. The paranoia that affects every American is by no means a positive outcome of the infamous day. Yet, a month ago, this united nation was a nation of scattered people apologizing for being an American. Now the residents of the United States of America, perhaps for the first time since World War II, are proudly calling themselves Americans.

Now what matters is that people care enough to buy an American flag and dare to call themselves Americans. The words Taliban, Kabul, and Jalalabad are very real. The superficial media of then is the patriotic, informative world reporting news of now.

Now Americans care, finally. Americans care about others less fortunate, Americans care about the brave soldiers, officers, firefighters, and paramedic units who risk their lives doing what others people are too scared or too proud to do. Even our own president, George W. Bush, is getting the respect he deserves.

It doesn’t matter what was a month ago, what matters is what is now. A better America is within reach, morals are high and unity is no longer a bad word. We can never forget the horror and tragedy that was September 11th, but at least we have the possibility of moving on for a truly better tomorrow, no matter what the cost was.
—Michael Zinshteyn, 17, Santa Monica HS

Should the US go to war?

Associate Editor Sue Doyle gathered the following thoughts from El Camino Real HS students:

“I don’t think so. I have a cousin and a friend in the military and am worried that something might happen to them. Plus, it wasn’t a country that did this to us—it was some terrorists.”
—John Rivera

, 16

“No, but they should do something to teach the people who did this a lesson, so it never happens again.”
—Geva Cohen

, 16

“As an American, I say no, but as an Israeli, I say yes. That way we can clean up what’s going on over there. I lived all my life in Israel and am used to the violence. But I was surprised to see that they got the Twin Towers.”
—Tom Jukier

, 17