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I Survived 9/11—These Are the 15 Questions Young People Ask Me the Most

Reader's Digest Logo By Helaina Hovitz of Reader's Digest | Slide 1 of 16: I was 12 years old, sitting in school three blocks away from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, when the planes hit the twin towers. Our teachers had us all gather in the cafeteria. I remember parents rushing in to pull out their children amid the chaos. I began panicking, wondering how I would get home to my apartment building on the other side of the Towers where my elderly grandparents also lived. Then, my neighbor and her 13-year-old son appeared in the doorway, arriving late for the day after an appointment, to walk me home. We left just minutes before the first tower collapsed. What we ran from, saw, heard, smelled, and experienced as we pushed through crowds and ran for our lives from the collapsing towers—the first, then the second—as we tried to get home with police stopping us at every way in and bloody, ash-covered bodies running past us—has become common knowledge in the past decade. But it's very different to live through it in real time as a child, with no idea if we would be killed in an instant, what was going to happen next, and if the world was going to end before I could see my family again and say goodbye. I survived, but that morning was just the beginning of my trauma.In 2013, I wrote a book, After 9/11 about my experiences and that of over a dozen of my former classmates, I began to receive emails from children across the country asking me questions and telling me their feelings about the day. I started video chatting with them in their classrooms as well. These are the questions I'm asked most frequently—along with my heartfelt answers.

That morning

I was 12 years old, sitting in school three blocks away from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, when the planes hit the twin towers. Our teachers had us all gather in the cafeteria. I remember parents rushing in to pull out their children amid the chaos. I began panicking, wondering how I would get home to my apartment building on the other side of the Towers where my elderly grandparents also lived. Then, my neighbor and her 13-year-old son appeared in the doorway, arriving late for the day after an appointment, to walk me home. We left just minutes before the first tower collapsed. What we ran from, saw, heard, smelled, and experienced as we pushed through crowds and ran for our lives from the collapsing towers—the first, then the second—as we tried to get home with police stopping us at every way in and bloody, ash-covered bodies running past us—has become common knowledge in the past decade. But it's very different to live through it in real time as a child, with no idea if we would be killed in an instant, what was going to happen next, and if the world was going to end before I could see my family again and say goodbye. I survived, but that morning was just the beginning of my trauma.In 2016, I wrote a book, After 9/11 about my experiences and that of over a dozen of my former classmates, I began to receive emails from children across the country asking me questions and telling me their feelings about the day. I started video chatting with them in their classrooms as well. These are the questions I'm asked most frequently—along with my heartfelt answers.
© Courtesy Helaina Hovitz Regal

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