Explaining the events of 9/11 to kids

by Yazmin Macias / Sep 14, 2022



In this kid-friendly podcast, Worth Noting delves into hot topics in the world currently. Host Matthew Winner dives into each topic and brings information to the front. This episode focuses on the events of September 11th, 2001, and how they have had lasting impacts through today. 



Matthew: Twenty years ago, on September 11, 2001, a major event happened in the United States in New York City, the effects of which we are still confronting today. That event is Worth Noting. 


On the morning of September 11, 2001 the United States was attacked by a terrorist group and nearly 3,000 people lost their lives.  


I will go slow here. I will take good care of you as I tell you about this atrocity. I want you to understand, but I also want to save space for your emotions and your response as well as whatever questions may come up. Listener, this is a safe space for you. Just like always.

In New York City stood two towers, twins. Together along with five other buildings they made up the World Trade Center. The towers stood in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan. They were an iconic part of the New York City skyline. 


At 8:45 am on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. The impact left a massive hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping many, many more on the floors above. 


Evacuation of the tower and its twin immediately began getting underway. Initially, the incident was thought to be a freak accident. 


Then, at 9:03am, a second Boeing 767 approached the World Trade Center and flew directly into the south tower near the 60th floor. 


There was no doubt. America was under attack.  



Less than 15 minutes later, the World Trade Center’s south tower collapsed.


And within the hour, the north tower collapsed as well. All told, nearly 10,000 people were treated for injuries, many severe.   


A third plane crashed into the Pentagon military headquarters in Washington, D.C. at 9:45 am, resulting in the loss of nearly 200 military personnel and civilian lives. 


And on a fourth plane, which had a delayed take-off, passengers were beginning to hear word of the events in New York City and Washington, D.C. The passengers planned an insurrection, a takeover, of the plane from the terrorists. That plane crash-landed in a rural field near Shanksville, PA at a speed of close to 500 miles per hour. Everyone on board was killed.


For those victims, those passengers, those firefighters and police officers and emergency medical technicians and first responders, for those men and women and children and the unspeakable gap their absence leaves on this world, those 3,000, I offer this moment of silence, please.   

There are details we do not know for sure.


The attack was carried out by 19 Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations. A terrorist is someone who uses violence against the law in order to influence or resist a government. Acts of terrorism are meant to instill a sense of fear in those who witness them.


To be Islamic means to follow Islam, a religion teaching that Muhammed is a messanger of God. Followers of the Islamic faith are called Muslims. Over 3 million Americans are Muslim, according to the Pew Research Center.


I want to emphasize here that in no way is the Islamic faith associated with terrorism. Anyone with whatever particular viewpoint can carry out a terrorist attack. Those involved in the September 11 attack happened to be Islamic. According to another Pew Research poll, there are nearly 2 billion Muslims in the world as of 2015, accounting for nearly 25% of the world’s population.


And while I could spend time recounting the events to you and the people involved and the great, great tragedy, I will pause here. I will note our nation’s occupation of Afghanistan for 20 years, ending only recently on August 30, 2021, as all U.S. forces were withdrawn from the country, marking the end of Operation Enduring Freedom.


Instead of going detail-by-detail and risking losing the message, the takeaway... I will ask you this:  


What do you do with all that hurt? 

A close friend of mine named Marcie was in New York City at the time. Marcie is a children’s book author. She has a brand new nonfiction picture book called Survivor Tree. It’s about a tree that stood beside the towers and was buried in their rubble. But it’s also about surviving. 


In her author’s note, Marcie writes, “I was a teacher on September 11, 2001. As the day’s events unfolded on our classroom television, I was asked questions by thirty-five high schoolers. My only answer: “I don’t know.” The blue early-morning sky had turned into a violent absence of color as gray ash brutally blotted out Lower Manhattan--a shift that haunted me long after the event, as did the many questions that I couldn’t answer. It felt as if color might never return.”


In that time where others felt as if color might never return, many mourned for those lost in the attack.  


Many gathered to pray and to support and to share resources and to rebuild. Many were angry and many wanted to retaliate.  


Some did, in whatever way they could. Some of these retaliations were on innocent people. People who observed the same religious practices as those men. Or were from the same part of the world as those men. Or who dressed or talked or looked or resembled, even slightly, those men. 





And when they did, their generalizations became hate and anger and violence. There were acts of Islamaphobia, the ​​dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.


There were acts of xenophobia, the dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.


Like the aftershocks of the attack, there are still echoes of these harmful responses today.


But there is also rebuilding and restoring. 

A memorial now stands at One World Trade Center where the towers once stood. The survivor tree is there. As are the survivors. And the children and family and friends and classmates of the survivors. 


And for some or maybe many, some of the color is beginning to return. It returns in the form of books and art and businesses and music and community and unity and action and justice. That we may never forget what happened on September 11, 2001 in hopes that it may never happen again.  


I’m Matthew. And this is Worth Noting.