Young Americans discuss their hopes and fears in the year after Sept. 11 attacks - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Youth view

Young Americans discuss their hopes and fears in the year after Sept. 11 attacks

By MARTHA IRVINE AP National Writer

America's youth will deal with the effects of the Sept. 11 attacks longer than any other generation - a fact that prompted The Associated Press to ask a diverse group of young people their thoughts one year later.

Some said they are still afraid. Others are determined to defy fear.

Leah Isquith, a 15-year-old girl from Seattle and the youngest of eight children, talked about family. She said phone calls from her siblings comforted her after the attacks.

Ivan Amir, a 17-year-old boy from Beltsville, Md., of Pakistani and Colombian descent, noted how the attacks brought people together. But he also encountered hatred, including a stranger who spit in his face and yelled racial slurs on Sept. 11.

Still, despite the tragedy, many - even Ivan - also talked about hope.

Here's what they had to say:

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Q: Have the events of Sept. 11 changed the everyday workings of your life? If so, how? If not, why not?

From Ivan Amir: This is easily the most significant impact any event has had on my life. I live day to day honestly trying to understand every person I meet and making sure they understand me. For me, this is now a critical aspect of life.

From Leah Isquith: I have learned to appreciate my family and my community much more, because I realize they are precious and could be taken from me.

From Devin O'Leary, an 11-year-old from Bloomington, Ind., who said he's still trying to understand why the terrorists attacked: It makes me more suspicious at airports. When we were going to Oregon, we saw a man who was acting suspicious giving people strange looks. I worried that he was a terrorist.

From Kendra Kehl-Fie, a 19-year-old freshman at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., who plans to study religion: I refuse to change how I live because some people want me to be scared of them, and what they might do. If I were to live in fear, then they would have won.

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Q: How has your world view changed since the World Trade Center was hit? Are you different in any way?

Devin: I worry that the next building they will try to hit is the Sears Tower because it's the tallest building in the U.S. My dad lives in Chicago and I worry that he could be around there when it gets hit and he might get hurt. But my goals haven't changed. I still want to be a professional soccer player.

Leah: I do not really feel more fearful or pessimistic about what will happen in the future because I don't think that will help the situation; being positive and strong is really the most supportive thing that we can do to get through this difficult time.

From Sameer Syed, a 17-year-old from West Windsor, N.J., who describes himself as a "Pakistani American-Muslim": Since the attacks took place, I am more fearful, but at the same time I have faith and know Muslims and non-Muslims will work together and make the world a safer place.

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Q: How will these events affect your generation in years to come? Have you noticed differences in your peers already?

From Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell, a 19-year-old political science major at Emory University in Atlanta: Since the attacks, I have had many casual, late-night discussions with peers about world affairs. Before the attacks, such subjects were much more rarely broached.

From Kendra: This event is like the bombing on Pearl Harbor was for the World War II generation. It is something that we will never forget. We now realize that the world is a much bigger place than what we ourselves know.

From Ivan: Anything can be replaced except for a person. This is what my generation has come to terms with and it is noticeable. My friends no longer say just "Bye!" Rather, I hear them saying, "Bye, mom! Bye, dad! I love you!"

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Q: Has Sept. 11 changed your view of the United States? If so, how? Do you have more - or less - trust in our leaders since then?

From Devin: I think they are protecting us. They are teaching flight attendants karate and they've got more high-tech tools in airports. I think they are always trying to find new ways to stop terrorism. But I'm just a little kid, and I want to have fun. I don't want to think about terrorists.

From Koshlan: I think Sept. 11 brought out the best and worst in our political leaders. For example, President Bush's patient military response and emphasis on tolerance toward Muslims within in the United States was admirable, while the way in which many politicians used the pending danger to push through regressive initiatives such as the Patriot Act and oil drilling-centered energy policy was not.

From Kendra: I see hope in the way that people from all over the country pulled together when the World Trade Center was hit. It showed that we do have a collective heart. (However) since Sept. 11, I have less trust in our leaders. I believe they should be doing less political bickering and instead find ways to make our transportation system secure.

Ivan: The sense of community and unity within the country recently has made me prouder than ever to be an American. I never thought much about it until then. But now, even when I simply hear the national anthem, I can't help but feel something I'm only able to describe as my soul rejoicing. I love this country, and nothing will ever change that.

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Martha Irvine can be reached at mirvine@ap.org

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-08-19-02 1511EDT

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