Children of 9/11: Our Story review: If it was hate that Bin Laden tried to generate, he failed spectacularly

Even at two hours, this is a documentary that holds the attention, because you want to know what happened next – but what happened next is usually quite normal for any Gen Z kid

Sean O'Grady
Monday 16 August 2021 23:00
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One of the most striking aspects of Children of 9/11: Our Story is that so few of the six children profiled feel any anger at all about the events of that day. You might think this all the more remarkable because they were the children of some of the 105 mothers pregnant at the time their fathers died in the attacks. There’s no disrespect about their late fathers’ lives, and an obvious sense of loss, but there’s also no great crazing for questions to be answered, for “closure”, or any signs of obsession about the dads they lost in the terrorist atrocity.

Acceptance is universal, and the stories universally moving, and they come from across the world – Germany, Poland, Yemen and all over the United States. Paula Gorki, for example, was pregnant with Nick Gorki at the time. She had morning sickness and left work that very morning because she felt so unwell, leaving her husband, a banker, behind; the moment she left the building, the first plane went into it, showering her with debris. Her husband did not emerge.

Fares’s father went back into the towers with his master keys get people out and died helping others. Another of the now grown-up children, Dina Retik from Vermont, confesses to feeling “a little guilty”, because she doesn’t think about her late father every day, and she is the only one who mentions anger about those events. She doesn’t come across as an angry or vengeful person, however, and nor does her mother, who gives Ted Talks on her life experience. Of course, they’ve all grown very used to how their families were touched by terror, but it hits the viewer particularly hard when you learn that Dina’s dad, David, was sitting next to one of the terrorists on flight AA11, the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Centre. She wonders what would have been had the murderers got to know her father.

Even at two hours, it is a documentary that succeeds in holding the attention, because you want to know what happened next – but what happened next is usually quite normal for any Gen Z kid. When it isn’t, these children of 9/11 are gentle and touching and thoughtful about their lives – and honest with it, always stressing that it was their mums and other relatives who felt the loss so much more acutely.

So we follow them through their routine and not-so-routine rites of passage, though home movies and snaps and, sometimes, little songs and poems, plus the inevitable archive. There’s no voiceover, only personal testimony, soberly given. There are new siblings to welcome, sometimes step-dads to get to know, pets to play with, sports days, graduations, a coming out, their first vote, the 2020 presidential contest, gun drills in case of a shooting spree, that sort of thing. But also the annual 9/11 rituals and the interest from media and friends because of their status as special children of that day. They cope with that amazingly well, even though, as one says, they feel a lot of eyes on them.

If it was hate and resentment echoing down the generations that Bin Laden tried to generate, then he failed spectacularly with those who were touched most closely by his crimes. It came too late for us to hear from them, but I’d like to know what they make of the abandonment of Afghanistan. I think I can guess.

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