Many children of 9/11 victims were too young to remember their parents who died. They’ve grown up living with the tension between having a personal connection to the day but few, if any memories.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
We are approaching the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Nearly 3,000 people were killed on that day. Many of them left behind very young children who have grown up over the last two decades with few, if any, memories of the parents they lost. NPR’s Melissa Block has some of their stories.
MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: The memories come, if they come at all, in fragments, a hazy glimpse, a faint echo.
AN NGUYEN: He would sing, sometimes very loudly. A lot of classical or traditional songs in Vietnamese.
BLOCK: We’ll hear more from all of those voices in this story. That last voice is An Nguyen remembering his father, Khang Nguyen, who emigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam after the war. He was an electronics engineer who worked as a contractor for the Navy. Khang Nguyen was 41 when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, a direct hit in the area where he worked. An had just turned 4.
NGUYEN: And being so young and so vulnerable and also in the midst of the aftermath and all of that, it was a really difficult time.
BLOCK: There’s a family photo of An, a small boy in khaki overalls standing outside the Pentagon just a few days after the attack. He’s clutching an orange safety fence. Where the plane struck the building, a whole section is gone. As he’s grown, an only child with few memories of his dad, An has had to reckon with huge life questions.
NGUYEN: In some regards, I’m on my own trying to understand how this world operates and, more – possibly more importantly, how do I know myself?
BLOCK: An is a software engineer soon to get his master’s degree, a degree his dad was on track to get himself when his life was cut short. An sees his achievement as a gift for his father. He says, I know he would be very proud of where I’ve gone.