News And Politics

Young southside Angelenos reflect on 9/11

Sept. 11, 2012, 2:30 p.m.

24-year-old Elisabeth Barajas says it's important that people who, at the time, were too young to understand what was happening on September 11, 2001, take the time to learn. (José Martinez/OnCentral)


Eleven years ago, terrorists carried out an attack that marked September 11, 2001 as one of the darkest days in U.S. history.

The image of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center – and the towers' subsequent collapse – are imprinted indelibly on the American psyche, particularly for those who are old enough to remember exactly what it was they were watching on the news, or what it was they were watching unfold before their eyes in New York City. The same is true for those who watched the Pentagon in the aftermath of a similar attack.

But many of today's young adults were, at the time, too young to fully grasp the gravity the chaos. OnCentral took to the streets of South L.A. to find some of those young adults, and to ask them to reflect on that day that saw nearly 3,000 people die.

Ryan Welch, 18
From: Los Angeles, California

On where he was when he learned about the attack:
I was waking up to get ready to go to school. I was in third grade. I didn't really know what was going on; I just saw on the news it was cloudy; it was dark; it was really scary, because my mom was crying. It was just really chaotic. I didn't really know what the Twin Towers were until I got older. It was devastating for people around me, but because I was so young, I didn't really understand what was going on.

On whether he knew anybody who was in either of the towers when they were struck:
Not that I know of. But my mother was very frantic. I don't know if she knew anybody.

On whether he feels 9/11 affects him today:
Not really. It's a sad point in time, and of course we remember, but we have to move on and take measures to make sure stuff like that doesn't happen anymore.

On the U.S. response to and commemoration of 9/11:
I'm actually quite surprised. I'm also an LAPD cadet and I know that normally they ask us to go the 9/11 memorial. But this year, nothing's really going on in remembrance of 9/11 or anything. I was sure to put on my 9/11 [memorial] wristband this morning … but I'm surprised a lot of stuff isn't going in remembrance of 9/11.

Michelle Johnson, 19
From: Los Angeles, California

On where she was when she learned about the attack:
I believe I was at school, in class. We didn't know until everything was on the news, and everybody was calling everybody. I was kind of scared. I was young.

On what she was feeling that day:
I was scared. I just thought everything was going to get blown up. I didn't know what was going on.

On whether 9/11 has affected her life in some way:
Now I'm really scared to fly. I've never been on an airplane, and after that happened, I never wanted to. It's super scary. You never know who's on an airplane who might want to kill a bunch of people. And I don't like being in tall buildings either.

On the U.S. response to and commemoration of 9/11:
It was crazy. At the airports now, they check everything. It's ridiculous, and it's because of crazy people. It changed a lot of things. Everything's different now. It's not how it used to be. Before, we could go to an airport, get through within seconds. Now it takes like 20 minutes to go through the airport.

On how well the U.S. has done in its response to 9/11:
It's good. But I don't understand why people would want to do that to innocent people. People shouldn't have that state of mind in the first place, to try and kill a lot people and blow up buildings. It shouldn't be like that.

Henry Fuentes, 18
From: Los Angeles, California

On where he was when he learned about the attack:
I believe I was at school. I mostly remember the trauma because I had an uncle that worked at the World Trade Center. He broke a leg, but that's about it. He managed to get out.

On what he was feeling as he watched coverage of the attack unfold:
I felt sad because I knew people around there. I had a lot of relatives living in New York.

On how 9/11 has affected him:
Not that much anymore. We're well-protected here. That was a one-time event. And I was young [when it happened].

On the media's coverage of 9/11:
They did their job. They reported it. They were honest with it.

On the balance between moving on and remembrance:
Moving on is forgetting about what happened. Remembering is honored the people who died. I think it should become a holiday, just to give respect to the people who died.

Elisabeth Barajas, 24
From: Los Angeles, California

On where she was when she learned about the attack:
I was in middle school; I was 14. I remember I woke up in the morning to go to school and my dad told me to turn up the TV. That's when we saw it – the smoke and everything. I didn't even know what it was.

On what she was feeling that day:
I went to school and then I had P.E. in the morning and the teachers took us to the gym and we were watching TV in the gym. I didn't even know what had happened. I was 14.

On any personal connections to the attacks:
There was this kid in my class who had been in New York [when the attacks happened]. Later on, he came back and told everybody that he was there. Everybody was trying to ask him stuff … I remember he said there was a lot of smoke everywhere.

On how 9/11 has affected her:
It's sad that all those people died. I think about that. But personally, it doesn't [affect me].

On the U.S. response to and commemoration of 9/11:
It's nice that people remember. I don't think that anybody's going to forget September 11.

On the balance between moving on and remembrance:
Remember. Just take a moment of silence. The news is always going to show 9/11. I think especially for people who weren't born yet, they should know what happened.

All photos by José Martinez.

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