91/11/2001: The Day That Changed America
The Day that Changed America
Young survivors grieve—and remember
by Suzanne McCabe
Reprinted from Junior Scholastic, September 6, 2002

After September 11, Americans searched for hope in the ashes.

Nicholas Kirschner* first heard about the September 11 attacks from a classmate. But the information he got—at recess—was sketchy.

Nicholas, 12, lives in New York City. His father works a few blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood.

When his mom picked him up from school the afternoon of September 11, she was crying.

"Was Dad in there?" Nicholas asked.

"No," his mom said. "But your Uncle Mike was."

Mike worked in the north tower of the trade center. No one had heard from him since the first plane struck, at 8:46 a.m.

Nicholas remembers racing home, where his mom spent several hours on the phone, desperate for information about her brother Mike.

The calls ended in heartbreak two days later, when Mike's body was found in the rubble at Ground Zero.

A Call to Action
September 11 will be remembered as one of the most horrific days in U.S. history. More than 3,000 people were killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in a hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

The attacks called America to a new challenge. "History will know that day not only as a day of tragedy, but as a day of decision, when the civilized world was stirred to . . . action," said President George W. Bush.

Americans responded to the challenge with courage and generosity. In New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, people rushed to help with rescue efforts. Many made sandwiches and collected supplies for rescue workers.

Across the nation, individuals joined together to raise money for the children of victims. Students at Broad Meadows Middle School in Quincy, Massachusetts, raised more than $3,000.

"It not only shows the generosity" of all who contributed, says Michele Collyer, 12, a Broad Meadows student. "It also shows that we care."

A Changed World
Now, a year after the attacks, the U.S. is a changed nation. There is tighter security at airports and border crossings. Government intelligence agencies are working together more closely. And President Bush has proposed creating a Cabinet-level agency, the Department of Homeland Security, to oversee all safety efforts.

Bush believes that these new measures will help U.S. leaders "deal more effectively with how to do the most important job any elected official has . . . to protect innocent life."

Remembering the Tragedy
This month, Americans will honor victims of the attacks. On September 6, the U.S. Congress will hold a ceremonial session in New York City. The legislature last met there in 1789.

On September 11, during a daylong series of events, the names of the World Trade Center victims will be read at the site. Nearby, President Bush and other world leaders will light an eternal flame in honor of the dead. The President will then visit the Pentagon and the crash site in Pennsylvania.

Many schools will also hold memorial events. Students in Arlington, Virginia, will plant a tree in honor of those killed in the Pentagon attack. Over the next few months, trees will be planted at all of Arlington's schools.

Such efforts, Nicholas believes, show that people have learned valuable lessons from the attacks.

"I think 9/11 made us nicer," he says, recalling a recent class trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in Washington, D.C.

"Two of my friends, Walker and Ben, were crying," Nicholas says. "Both of their uncles died in Vietnam. I thought of how Mike died young, too. That made me understand what my friends were going through. I cried with them."

* Nicholas Kirschner is the author's nephew.