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A message to Paris from kids who lost parents in 9/11

When terrorists attacked New York City in 2001, Terrease Aiken, now 22, was 8; Juliette Candela, 21, was 6; Francesca Picerno, 23, was 9; and Joseph Palombo, 26, was 12. They lost their parents that day. This is their message for the families of those killed by terrorists abroad.

Not long after hearing about the Paris attacks, I was on the subway with a friend. Both of us French and living in New York, we were talking about what had just happened back home and how strange it felt to be so far away.

Somewhere between 96th Street and 72nd Street, a young American man wearing a Hawaiian shirt overheard our conversation and immediately came up to us. He said he was sorry for what happened. He said he loved Paris, and then he hugged us. That night, the spire on top of the Freedom Tower — constructed after the 9/11 terror attack — was lit up in the colors of the French flag.

Those signs of solidarity moved me. As a French journalist in New York, I felt like I wanted to express my solidarity too. I moved to New York from Paris in 2011 — the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. I've come to realize that no day goes by in New York that doesn’t remind us of that horrendous event. We can’t compare tragedies, but we can certainly learn from them.

When I asked the children of 9/11 victims if they would be interested in sending a message to Paris and victims of terrorism, they were up for it. They wanted to tell the people of Paris that they’re not alone. That no matter how hard it is, you can overcome fear and terror. Although most of these kids were resistant to it, the 9/11 attacks became a part of their identity. By embracing this identity, these now–young adults have become symbols of hope and resilience.

Eléonore Hamelin is a multimedia journalist and adjunct professor at Columbia's graduate school of journalism.

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