Ashley Bisman was 16 when she saw a plane crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on a high school television. His father, Jeff Goldflam, worked for a bank on the 101st floor – above the impact zone. Like her, 3,051 children lost a parent in the attacks of September 11, 2001. Among them, 105 were born in the months that followed, and therefore never knew their father. They are all young adults today. And for many, the 20th anniversary of the attacks on Saturday “represents a particularly dreaded date, with personal mourning forever associated with a national tragedy,” said Terry Sears, director of Tuesday’s Children, an organization supporting children and families. affected by the attacks.
After the tragedy, psychologists were largely in the unknown: “They did not know what would be the impact, in the long term, of the magnitude of the destruction,” she continues. 9/11 is a horrific event that changed the world, with terrifying images to be absorbed at a young age. It’s hard to feel safe growing up without your father in a world where the unimaginable can happen ”.
Four out of ten victims not identified
If the director of Tuesday’s Children insists on the absence of the father, it is because nearly 80% of the 3,000 victims of 9/11 were men. They worked mainly in finance – including 658 in the Cantor Fitzgerald bank alone – or insurance, to which must be added 400 firefighters, police and rescue workers killed, and 125 members of the Pentagon. Losing a parent at a young age is a never-ending ordeal. “Absence is eternal and is particularly felt during major stages of life, such as graduation, marriage or the birth of a child,” said Terry Sears.
But the mourning of the children of September 11 is made even more difficult by extraordinary circumstances. The youngest have no memory of a parent transformed into an almost mythical figure. More than half of the families have not received any remains of the deceased, with 22,000 members and body fragments collected under conditions making DNA analysis difficult. This week, the 1,646th and 1,647th victims have been identified, but hope fades over the years. In his memoirs – Chasing Butterflies –Ashley Bisman says she hoped her father had gone for a run, or that he miraculously survived the tower collapse. Until one of his credit cards was found in the rubble.
“Each family creates its traditions”
On each anniversary of September 11, it is almost impossible to escape the images of the tragedy. According to Terry Sears, faced with this ordeal, “some go to Ground Zero to read the names of the victims. Others prefer the calm of a hike in the forest, or go to their deceased relative’s favorite restaurant. Each family creates its traditions. “
And for the director of the organization, “the resilience shown by children is a cause for hope”. Some are moving towards careers in diplomacy or conflict resolution, to combat the roots of terrorism. Several dozen sons and daughters of deceased firefighters have also decided to follow in their fathers’ footsteps and put on uniform. According to Terry Sears, this is a recurring theme: “Hope that their parents, wherever they are, are proud of them. “