They are the children of Sept. 11.
Now college students, these four young adults in a University of Akron speech class were too young to understand the implications of a terrorist attack on American soil.
A dozen years of war ensued — most of their thinking lives.
Instructor Sarah Lane asked them to share thoughts and memories about war and terrorists.
Kevin Jedreski was a third-grader at Sidney Fenn Elementary School in Medina on that sunny September morning.
“They took us into a classroom and they explained,” said the 20-year old sophomore computer science major.
“I didn’t really understand what was going on.”
Jedreski, an avid reader who wants to design video games, said he remained in school all day, although many of his classmates left early.
“I remember parents picking up kids,” he said. “I remember a bunch of teachers talking to each other and I didn’t understand the depth of the scenario.”
He remembers hearing that America was under attack but not really knowing what that meant.
“Until high school I was just an ignorant kid,” he said.
Then, he began to watch video of the live broadcasts from the day of the attack and finally understood.
“Watching the newscast was the best way to understand it,” he said.
He remembers being 8 years old and thinking the night of the attacks at home that “everything was going to be okay.”
But after learning and listening as an adult, and thinking about all that he saw at school that day, and what happened at home, he has an entirely different attitude.
“It was really a scary thing,” he said.
For UA freshman Janette Jeffries-Nealy, there is no memory of the day.
Quite simply, she said: “I don’t remember.”
She is an early graduate of the Akron Digital Academy and at age 16 is majoring in communication at UA.
At the time, she was a preschooler at the Irma Jones Pre-School.
What she does remember was a poster of the American flag inscribed with Sept. 11, 2001, hung at her house.
A few years later, she said, she began to put the pieces of that September day together.
“I understood the tragedy that happened,” she said. “It was really heartbreaking.”
Her goal as a writer is “to make a difference in the world. There is so much love I want to spread.”
But the fact that her country would be attacked in such a way, to kill so many people, she said, “makes me worried that there is so much hatred against America in some countries.”
She has seen documentaries on Sept. 11 and has watched the video of the live news broadcasts.
“It makes me uncomfortable to know there is so much tension and tragedy,” she said.
Jonny DeMoya, 18, was a first-grader in Olney, Md.
“I remember being in class,” DeMoya said. “There was so much happening … I remember seeing all the teachers running around in the hallways.”
“The next thing I know is parents were starting to pick up the kids.”
A freshman, he is a goalie on the UA soccer team — a tough position. But back then, he was close to home.
His mother showed up to take him home early.
“I got home and I remember I went downstairs and played with some toys,” he said.
Later that day, he remembers watching television with his parents.
“I finally saw what was going on and everything that was happening with the towers,” he said.
A few years later, he said he began to understand how the world changed that day.
He said he feels safer because he lives in the United States and because of the country’s strong military.
When he goes back in time to the day the airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the passengers overtook terrorists on United Flight 93 and crash landed into Shanksville, Pa., he said he feels sorrow.
“It has to be one of the saddest days in American history,” he said.
As a first-grader at Glover Elementary School in Akron, Lakenya Williams remembers the day vividly: “I remember it was really hectic.”
“Everybody was getting called to the [school] office.”
“We were scared. …We didn’t know what was going on.”
Like many others, she went home early that day.
“My parents were getting us all together and told us they love us in case anything happened,” she said.
Now a sophomore majoring in surgical technology, the 20-year old works at the Burlington Coat Factory.
She remembers watching television with family, and she still thinks about the horror. Those images, she said, help her understand today what she could not then.
“I worry that it is going to happen again,” she said. “I am hoping that it doesn’t happen again.”
“Planes crashing, people dying, people jumping out of buildings and falling,” she said. “Firefighters everywhere. Police. People crying and scared.”
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.