September in Vermont is traditionally filled with stories of leaves changing colors and kids heading back to school. But on a bright September morning 10 years ago, the story for many young Vermonters was one of sadness, uncertainty and fear.
Eighty miles north in Richmond, then-10-year-old Jarid Raftery learned of the attacks when he found his mom in tears.
“My mom was sitting on the couch watching TV crying,” Jarid recalled to a reporter from his Burlington, Vermont, hometown TV station, WCAX. “And I was with my sister and her two friends and we were basically asking her, what’s wrong, what’s going on?”
For a little boy used to playing in the park behind his home in a setting fit for postcards, the attacks were scary, too.
“Especially here in Vermont, we all feel really safe, it’s a great environment, it’s a great place to grow up. So to see that happen even somewhere like 6 hours away, it was just scary for us, definitely scary,” Jarid said.
Jarid memories of the attacks on New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa., are like so many others who watched the horrors through young eyes.
The Rafterys stayed glued to the TV.
“We went and sat down and watched it with her and were just watching this catastrophe happen,” Jarid said.
Jarid’s mom, Ayeshah Raftery, was a flight attendant at the time. She’s from New York City and couldn’t keep the tragedy from her kids.
“A lot of parents were deciding whether to tell their children what was going on, but I needed to tell them what was going on because we had family there,” she explained.
The Rafterys were spared– their family was OK. But a decade later Jarid still thinks of the thousands who died that morning.
“It was almost hard to believe that two of the tallest buildings that I have ever seen in my life don’t exist anymore and that all of those offices and people who worked there, were there every day and essentially spent their lives there are now dead or very injured or escaped by the skin of their neck, basically,” Raftery said.
Stories and images from 9/11 did not stop Jarid from leaving Vermont and heading to college in the city home to the largest terrorist attack the United States has ever seen.
“It looks unreal and you go there today and this is not what you see,” Jarid said.
Jarid is a sophomore at Pace University, a short distance from where the twin towers went down.
“I walk by it all the time and I always just see the gates and every time I look at that area, it just brings back instantly that memory,” he said.
He was at ground zero last spring when Osama Bin Laden, the man behind the Sept. 11 attacks was killed by U.S. forces.
“It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever been through in my entire life,” Jarid said.
An experience that continues to shape the 20-year-old’s 9/11 story.
“This one man stood up on the gates of ground zero that said, I’m Muslim, don’t panic and led everyone in the crowd in singing the pledge of allegiance, saying the pledge of allegiance and singing that national anthem,” Jarid said.
Ten years later as the bright September skies return, Jarid knows the 9/11 memories he shares with other young people will not fade.
“It clicks for everyone, something inside of them definitely changes and shifts and it is something that as Americans we can all relate to and definitely bond over,” he said.