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Growing Up in the Shadow of 9/11

By Adell Crowe

SOC Growing Up in the Shadow of 9/11

Logo designed by Liz White

The students in the Writing for Convergent Media class were between 11 and 15 years old on Sept. 11, 2001. Now they are seniors and graduate students at American University School of Communication whose multi-faceted final project shows how those events shaped their generation in unexpected ways.

“It’s like we have come full circle,” said senior Christina Trejo. “We are studying something we lived through and finding that it changed how we live today.”

The project, “Growing up in the Shadow of 9/11” was presented to officials from Gannett, the nation’s largest media company last week. In light of the news of Osama bin Laden's death, the timing couldn't have been better. While Gannett initially decided to make it part of a 9/11 commemorative package and post it on more than 100 media websites across the country, the bin Laden story led to early publication of the package; it's now featured on Gannett's Osama bin Laden web portal. The New York Times also highlighted the project, and interviewed Ashley Bright and Cara Kelly, two of the students who worked on the project, for an article about the millenial generation's reaction to Osama bin Laden's death.

Jennifer Carroll, a vice president at Gannett praised the students’ work and Gannett’s long association with AU. “The value of this project is that you have talked to people your age to add a unique perspective,” Carroll said. “I think what you have done is exactly what we want. We are proud of you and our association with AU.”

Students in Prof. Amy Eisman’s class spent the entire semester on the project that included a survey of more than 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 29; input from young people from every state; a powerful 7-minute video; and more than a dozen stories. Professor Maria Ivancin helped guide the survey, advising the students from Day 1 until the presentation.

The key finding of the survey and research:

  • More than 70% aren’t worried about being a victim of terrorism
  • Almost half say the events lowered their opinion of the federal government
  • 83% said they don’t hesitate to fly because of the attacks
  • 67% said they are more likely to keep up with the news because of 9/11
  • One in four said their opinion of Muslims was less favorable after the attacks
  • The farther the respondents live from the East Coast, the less affected they were by the events of 10 years ago.

The video, shot at the University of Maryland, in front of the White House and among the tidal basin cherry blossoms, shared compelling thoughts of eight young people who explained how the terrorists attacks had shaped them. One woman, a Muslim, said she had never seen anything in the media about Muslims before 9/11 but afterwards, she realized what it meant to identify as a Muslim/American.

The package was the third collaboration with Gannett by students in Eisman’s classes. Last year her students did a project on the New Civil Rights issues that ran on Gannett web sites and earlier they analyzed reader comments to find out what readers were reacting to online.