Tall Order Featured in The Guardian

The children of 9/11: haunted by their fathers’ last hours, some dread the anniversary

Children who lost a parent that day share a burden of grief, prying questions and ubiquitous footage of the disaster that killed their parents

Mike Friedman is intimately acquainted with the shadow that 9/11 has placed over its children. He and his twin brother Dan were 11 on the day they lost their father.

“9/11 is the only tragedy that is associated with a specific date, so nobody lets you forget it,” Mike said. “It’s on the news, on TV, on the internet. You never become fully immune to that – in the week up to 9/11 I’m never feeling like my normal self.”

Even before the attacks, the brothers had a special connection to the enormous World Trade Center skyscrapers in downtown Manhattan. The link stems from the most notable feature about the brothers – their height. Mike is 6ft 11in and Dan 6ft 9in.

For years they were the tallest people at their school, teachers included, and they acquired a nickname that paid homage to their stature. It was given to them by the basketball superstar Magic Johnson, who they had the chance to meet at one of their mother’s work functions; he signed an autograph for them, writing: “To the Twin Towers, best of luck”.

The nickname stuck. Mike and Dan were now the Twin Towers, well before their dad Andrew Friedman, a 44-year-old equity sales trader, went to work that day on the 92nd floor of the north tower.children of 9/11

‘It’s on the news, on TV, on the internet,’ Mike Friedman said. ‘In the week up to 9/11 I’m never feeling like my normal self.’ Photograph: Desiree Rios/The Guardian

There are striking differences between the experiences of the twins and Robyn Higley. Unlike her, they were very much present on the day and vividly recall being called out of class by the school principal and told a plane had hit their father’s building in New York but not to worry, he was fine.

They went about the rest of the day as though nothing had happened. They remember having fun at a neighbour’s house, swimming in the pool and enjoying a barbecue.

It was not until the following day that their mother, Lisa Friedman Clark, sat them down and told them: “Guys, I don’t think your dad’s coming home.”

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