The children of 9/11 - Growing up in the shadow of terror | DocFilm | DW | 10.09.2021

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The children of 9/11 - Growing up in the shadow of terror

The attacks of September 11, 2001, changed the lives of many children and young people dramatically. But they are committed to overcoming their harrowing experiences -- despite the shadow the Twin Towers cast over their lives.

Watch video 42:31

"Those pictures... Nothing is the way it was, but I've made my peace with it. I want to have good memories of my father. I'd be lying if I said those images don't haunt me. I see them in my nightmares. I have to live with that. It's part of survival. It's reality." Matthew was nine years old when his father died on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. Matthew spent years trying to determine how his father died; was he one of those who'd jumped in desperation from the upper floors? The shock and grief that Matthew experienced led him to years of drug abuse and addiction. But today, at the age of 29, he's sober and at peace with himself. Matthew has written a book about his struggles with drugs and sexual abuse as well as his memories of 9/11 and his father's death. He hopes the book will help others going through difficult times. Lenard Jr. and his brother Anthony were seven and nine years old respectively when their lives changed forever. Their father, Lenard Sr., was a firefighter. He was killed by falling debris when he ran into the North Tower to help rescue people. Fourteen other men from Lenard's company also died as the building collapsed. It would be weeks before their bodies were recovered. There was never any doubt that Lenard's sons would become firefighters. To them, their father is a hero. Leonard Jr. works in the same firehouse that his father did. He says, "If this happened again, I would do the same thing. It's our job to save people." Taylor's father Jeffrey was a police officer and 9/11 first-responder. He died two years ago from the effects of breathing toxic dust and fumes for weeks following the attack. Taylor says, "When he didn't come home for weeks, they told us that he was doing something heroic." Jeffrey suffered from medical problems for years before he died, and is now on the official list of 9/11 victims. Taylor says, "My father was an exceptional police officer. He taught me dignity and kindness. That legacy will stay with me forever." Adama, a young Muslim woman from Guinea, was caught up in the anti-terrorist fury that erupted after 9/11. At the age of 16, she was accused of being a suicide bomber, and spent six weeks in jail. After she was released, she had to wear a court-ordered monitoring device. No charges were ever filed against her -- but the government deported her father to Guinea. Adama left high school to care for her younger siblings, who were born in the United States. She is still fighting to obtain U.S. citizenship.