‘It felt like the world just ended’: Alaskan interviewed as a child about 9/11 reflects on the past 20 years

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 2:34 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It started like an average day. Casey McCutcheon’s mother dropped her off at the babysitter’s house before school. Later that morning the children would take the bus together to Tudor Elementary School, but this day would change the lives of countless Americans.

It was Sept. 11, 2001. A 9 year-old Casey walked inside the babysitter’s house. The news was on the television and the adults were acting strange.

“I was kind of too young to understand what was going on then, but when we got to school, the whole day was focused on what was going on. And it was just very shocking,” McCutcheon said. “And as time goes on, and you get older, you kind of start to understand more, and who knew it would be something still relevant 20 years later.”

The 9/11 terrorist attacks were hard enough for adults to understand. Just a few days after the events of that day, to learn what children were processing about that attacks, Alaska’s News Source aired a special that focused on children and what they witnessed that day.

McCutcheon was one of six children interviewed on Sept. 20, 2001. With short cropped bangs and a neat ponytail perched atop her head, McCutcheon was nervous that day. She licked her lips before answering questions.

“Do you remember the terrorist attacks?” a reporter asked.

“Yeah,” she answered.

“Where were you when you saw them happen?”

“I woke up in the morning and it was on the news.”

“And what were you thinking when you saw it?”

“At first I didn’t understand and then I got to my babysitter’s house. It felt like the world just ended.”

On Friday, Alaska’s News Source showed McCutcheon her interview from 20 years ago.

“I was so tiny,” she said. “I kind of do remember that day now. Kind of jogged my memory a little bit. What a sad day for a little girl, especially, to go through.”

A Pew Research Center survey shows that about 80% of 28-year-olds “remember exactly where they were or what they were doing the moment they heard the news.”

Research from Pew also says “Roughly 76% of the public include the Sept. 11 terror attacks as one of the 10 events during their lifetime with the greatest impact on the country,” with polling from 2016 showing that 86% of millennials say that the attacks were the event that had the greatest impact on the country during their lifetime.

“I think the world that we grew up in really changed that day,” McCutcheon said. “and I don’t think it will be the same. The world that my son’s going to grow up in is not going to be the same.”

The terrorist attacks left nearly 3,000 people dead in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

“Every time you get on a plane, every time you walk in an airport, it’s something in the back of your head,” McCutcheon said. “You’re kind of more aware of what’s going on around you, and just kind of on edge, I guess, for the rest of your life.”

9/11 also lead to another defining moment: the war in Afghanistan. The war claimed 170,000 lives and cost over $2 trillion, according to the New York Times.

On Aug. 30, the United States removed all military forces from Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war nearly 20 years after it began.

“I’m grateful, I guess, that we’re finally done with war,” McCutcheon said. “But I guess there’s always the possibility of going back and it’s something I don’t think will ever be really over, at least in my lifetime.”

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