9/11 Generation speaks: young adults report stories and share memories
by Tammy Scileppi
Sep 08, 2011 | 1629 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Eric Reeg
When the first tower fell on September 11, 2001, Erin Reeg’s father, a New York City firefighter, was hit by falling debris. He spent two weeks in the hospital.

A decade later, Reeg will now report on how her father’s post-traumatic stress disorder impacted her family. This Radio Rookie looks back on the months she spent after 9/11, attending funerals and watching her father struggle to recover from the devastating injuries he sustained. For her radio show, she interviewed her parents and sister about the days, months and years that followed.

“What I really want people to know is that even though I don’t always show it, this one day in history really affected me,” she said. “This project helped me make sense of what I felt for all those years, and continue to feel now.”

A decade ago, an 11-year-old’s world was turned upside down when he lost his beloved older brother to the devastation that rocked the city, both literally and metaphorically, on that clear morning in September, 2001.

Today, at 22, Eric Leinung of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, is the same age as his brother Paul was when he perished on the 100th floor of Tower One at the World Trade Center while working as a risk consultant.

As a tribute to Paul, Eric felt deeply inspired to tell his story as one of six Radio Rookies, whose stories will air on radio station WNYC, this week and next.

Leinung turned his traumatic experience and his reaction to the horrific events on 9/11 outward, venting his anger and rage against his family, while his parents and sister tried to find their own way through a devastating loss.

His story chronicles “my progression from an angry kid to somebody who works to maintain peace at home and in the world,” he said. His father tells him, “It’s like losing an arm – you’ll never be able to do what somebody with two arms and legs can do, and you’ll never grow your arm back, but you’ll learn to do the things that most people do with one arm.”

These days, Eric feels he has made a drastic change for the better. His journey and his family’s turmoil and eventual recovery process through counseling and faith, is explored in his story.

Radio Rookies is a WNYC initiative that provides teenagers with the tools and training to create radio stories about themselves, their communities and their world. Since 1999, Radio Rookies has been conducting workshops across New York, in predominantly under-resourced neighborhoods, training young people to use words and sounds to tell true stories.

Upon completion, the Rookies' documentaries air on WNYC and occasionally on NPR. In their own words six young adults from New York City, New Jersey and Long Island report on the ways that 9/11 affected them, their families, and their communities – then and now.

“WNYC has assembled a unique and talented pool of young people, who are sharing stories that will not only resonate with their peers, but listeners of all ages in this post-9/11 world,” said 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels.

Norhan Basuni, 22, from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, recounts her personal story as a Muslim-American youth living post-9/11. She was in 7th grade in 2001, and in her radio show she recaps the different situations she experienced, talking about difficulties she faced back then.

“I never thought about it out loud before, but with the program I was allowed to dig back into those memories and say it out loud for the first time; for listeners to be able to understand what it was like, not only from an American perspective, but also from a Muslim one,” she said.

As a kid, Basuni was taunted by her classmates and had to deal with ignorant comments and bigotry fueled by fear. She remembers her father telling her she could no longer wear hijab because he feared for her safety.

Now a college graduate, Norhan reports on how she coped with these experiences as a pre-teen and teen, became an educator, a spoken word poet, and a defender of her faith.

“I never actually got to mourn the loss of my city, because I was so focused on trying to face my personal struggles,” she said.

Eighteen-year-old Jillian Suarez, from Glendale, Queens, never liked to talk about her 9/11 experience. She was inspired her by mom and close friends to finally speak about her loss.

“My mom got a call that day, when my dad’s remains were found,” she recalled. A New York City police officer and first responder, Ramon Suarez was killed just two days after Suarez’s birthday.

“My mom had to tell me he wasn’t coming back,” Suarez said. “Working on Delancey Street, he got a call on his radio, and told his partner he had to go and help people in the towers.”

For her piece, Suarez decided to push through her silence to talk about her father’s death and what his absence has meant to her. Her mom had to stay strong when it happened. “I was so young and didn’t understand, so she had to help me get through it,” she said.

Stories from “Radio Rookies: The 9/11 Generation Speaks” will air September 1 through the 9 during “Morning Edition” and “Weekend Edition,” which airs on WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 during morning drive.

The hour-long compilation special on WNYC will air on 9/10 at 8pm on 93.9 FM and on 9/11 at 7pm on AM 820.

The stories and the special will be available for on-demand listening at: www.wnyc.org/radiorookies.

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