Our Loss was a National Loss

An excerpt from The 9/11 children: What can they teach us?

Sonali Beaven, 20

Her father, Alan Anthony Beaven, 48, was an environmental lawyer. He was killed on board United Flight 93, which crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew struggled with hijackers for control of the plane.

My life’s ambitions are centered on what I witnessed in the aftermath of 9/11. I saw suffering, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a failure of many to cope with these problems. I hope to be an adolescent clinical psychologist and give teenagers and young adults a platform for discussion. I want to be a person they feel safe confiding in. Our loss was a national loss and in that, a lot of individual identity and pain was ignored. I felt that not many therapists I saw could understand that. I commend everyone for the rage and grief that they felt on our behalf. But I now have learned the value in claiming my own loss and I want to help people feel that power and relief.

My loss is central to my identity. I lost my father when I was 5 and have spoken to the media, listened to teachers colloquially discuss 9/11 in class, and heard countless words of hate and fear in response ever since. In a sense each choice I’ve made since that day has been crafted by my experience. But, because of my loss and the nature of my loss, I choose love and life every day. Because of my father and the other passengers, I can’t let fear limit me. I have to take today and every day and try to improve the world we live in and spread the ideology of love. We would not have lost our loved ones if not for commonplace hate and violence, and my life’s commitment, as a result, must be to improve that. I have become a person who values compassion and knowledge and that is a direct result of my loss.

“But, because of my loss and the nature of my loss, I choose love and life every day.”

It is not uncommon among my peers that someone has lost a parent. The causes vary but the pain and magnitude are constant. Loss is so incredibly personal and unique that it isn’t fair to say any two experiences are the same. My loss was public and national, which definitely has its implications. The world grieved for my loss and will not forget. I am fortunate in that way because so many lost are forgotten. But it wasn’t until I was 17 that I realized how personal what I had gone through was, too. I had to grieve my personal loss and remember the individual identity of my father in order to release the national grief I felt. It can be challenging to have such a traumatic experience documented and normalized in conversation. This is how my experience, our experience, is different. At no point was this just about us and what we had lost, and this is profound and yet so crippling.

M.I.C. Note:

Sonali is one of thousands of children with family taken on 9/11 who grew up in an education system forced to adapt to a new nation. Although powerful, her story is one of many. To read more, please see the full article linked below. 

Full Article:

The 9/11 children: What can they teach us?


Text and video interviews by Moni Basu, Wayne Drash, Claudia Morales and John Blake

Design and development by Sean O’Key and Alberto Mier

Video editing by Madeleine Stix

Photo editing by Bernadette Tuazon, Brett Roegiers and Natalie Yubas

O’Key, Sean, and Alberto Mier. "The 9/11 children: What can they teach us?" CNN. 2019. Cable News Network. 11 Sept. 2019 <https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2016/09/us/911-children-age-of-terror/>.

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Sonali's story is incredibly powerful. Her contrast between the nation's loss and individual loss is one that I've never thought of before. It also reminds us that kids that are too young to remember forge their opinions on what they are taught, so it is important that we keep the memory alive.