Middletown: Teens Talking

Anger And Hope

48 Hours wanted to hear what Middletown teen-agers thought about the day that changed their lives. A group of teens - a Muslim, an aspiring actor, a lifeguard, a soon-to-be Marine, a class president – gathered to tell Troy Roberts what they remembered, how they've suffered, what they learned, and what they hope for.

The day itself was "total chaos," says Francesca Ruggiero, who is 16.

"I remember seeing security guards running up and down the hallway, teachers hugging each other," says Lauren Benedetti, 18.

Students saw on TV that the towers had collapsed. "I turned around to my friends and I was like 'My father works in the World Trade Center' and everyone was like 'Oh really?' No one thought anything of it," says Bridgette Parks, 17.

"I got called down to the office and my brother was standing there by the office and he said 'Chris, I got out of work early. Let's grab a bite to eat,'" remembers Chris Braca, 16. His father Al worked on the 105th floor of the WTC. "My brother said 'We're not going out to eat. Two planes crashed into the WTC and the Pentagon's attacked.' I said, 'Have we heard from Daddy?' and he said no, and then I went home and everyone was at my house."

Francesca's Aunt Lorraine was on the 87th floor. "She was a really great person. She was someone if you met, you'd never forget them," says Francesca.

Says Bridgette: "When I got home, my family was there, and they said, that you know, my dad was missing, they weren't sure. Pretty much I knew that he wasn't missing, that he had died. I think my mom tried to shield it from me, saying that she didn't know what tower or what floor he was on, but I guess it's just a feeling that I got, I knew."

"The one thing I think I'll always remember is his laugh," she says.

Chris Braca's father's body was found a week later. A month later, an MCI operator called his family and said she had talked to Al Braca on Sept. 11. "The woman's name was Wilma and he was like, 'Wilma, help me' and he said, 'Wilma, I'm not gonna make it. Will you please get in contact with my family and tell them that I love them,' and that's the last we really heard."

"I think that we really walked into a world of politics, everybody's opinions became a lot stronger," says Lauren.

Omar is one of only five Muslim students at his high school. "I didn't agree with some of the moves that the United States government had done," he says. He said that after Sept. 11, he was treated differently by people he didn't know.

Jeanette begins basic training for the Marine Corps next month. Why did she join? "Its not so much revenge, its keeping the peace that we used to have," she says, adding that she is not scared, only eager.

"I just hope that they see what they did after Sept. 11 made us such a stronger country that they won't want to do something again," says Lauren.

"The thing that has kept me going is just I'm on a mission to make my dad proud," says Bridgette.

"Those terrorists took away my dad,' says Chris. "They took away someone's brother, someone's aunt, someone's uncle, someone's brother or sister. They can't take away yourself."