18 years. It's hard to believe that it's been that long since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. So much time has passed; yet, for many, not a day goes by that doesn't include thoughts of that day.
Think about the children that lost a mother or father on 9/11. Growing up, they had to wonder why the world was so unfair, so unkind. Inspire Kindness wanted to know what they thought of the world now, and we were able to ask a few questions to two people that were just six years old when they lost parents on that horrific day.
We would like you to meet:
Jesse, age 24, lost his father, Walter A. Matuza Jr. Walter was a Telecommunications Analyst who worked for Carr Futures on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center.
Tillie, age 24, lost her father, Gary Geidel. Gary was a firefighter at Rescue One.
We would like to share their words about the past 18 years and what they would still like to happen in this world.
How did 9/11 affect you growing up?
At only six years old, both Jesse and Tillie were young when the attacks took place. Being so young and experiencing such a traumatic event affected the way these children grew up.
Jesse said, "After all this happened, I was left sitting there wondering why my dad isn't home from work and why my grandma is moving in with us." Having brothers, Jesse did his best to keep a smile on his face through every hardship his family faced.
Tillie, to this day, can playback the entire tragic day in her head. She developed PTSD after the attacks. While she realized how cruel the world could be at such a young age, Tillie also noticed that there were very caring people.
It's been 18 years now. How do you think the world has changed?
Jesse mentions that for a few years after the attacks, it seemed the world banded together in solidarity. Since then, he thinks it has fallen apart, saying, "As we are right now, I can't say the world is a better place."
Tillie also thinks the world has gotten worse since 9/11. She has learned to appreciate every moment she has on this earth because she knows everything can change in the blink of an eye. She's always aware of her surroundings and knows how short life is.
How can we make the world a kinder place?
While Jesse does think the world is inherently kind, he thinks there are steps we could take to be more compassionate as a whole. He mentions that some people still see kindness as a weakness, and we'd be better off if people didn't always worry about what others think.
Similar to Jesse’s thoughts, Tillie notes that while there are bad people who walk this earth, there are still many kind and caring people out there. "I think we need to be compassionate toward each other ... show God's love to one another."
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Jesse said, "Throughout all that happened the last 18 years, the greatest thing to come out of this was the person my mother became. Before September 11, 2001, she was a full ball of energy and excitement, even with things that people consider to be meaningless. Mom was dependent on my father for a whole mess of things. After that day, she could have fallen apart and crumbled, but she knew she had three boys to care for and to raise. She grew to be the strongest person in the world. After enduring a loss that most people deem unfair, she is the definition of kind. She is the sweetest and most loving person in the world. When I was a kid in school, the teachers asked about who my role model would be, and just like most kids, I thought of a famous person like Derek Jeter or Brad Pitt. Years later, when I was asked that again, I realized the only person I can truly call a role model is my Mom. She took all that happened and created her greatest strength."
Tillie says, "My Dad wasn't supposed to work on 9/11. He took overtime the night before. Dad was only a few weeks from retirement, and we were about to move from Staten Island to upstate New York. He was late to work that day, and his firetruck left without him. We're not sure how he got to the WTC. They never found him or any of his belongings."
While the attacks of September 11, 2001, will never be forgotten, some people are reminded every single day of the tragic events that took place in New York. This week, in honor of Jesse, Tillie and other kids of 9/11, make an extra effort to be kind to one another. Tell those that you love what they mean to you. You never know what someone else is going through, and you never know what tomorrow will bring. Embrace each day, and be grateful for all you have.
This article is written in loving memory of Walter A. Matuza Jr., Gary Geidel, and the thousands of others who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.