TODAY   |  September 09, 2011

10 years after 9/11, TODAY’s Wish Kids reflect

Ten years ago, TODAY granted wishes to a handful of kids who lost a parent during the September 11th attacks.  They return to Studio 1A to reflect and to look forward to who they will become as adults.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> welcome back to ground zero . the attacks on 9/11 shattered the nation, destroying countless lives and robbing more than 3,000 children of a parent. ten years ago we met a handful of those children and tried to lift their spirits even if only for a day. we're going to visit with them again in a moment. but first, their stories.

>> a plane hit the world trade center . the stairwells are all on fire. we have to evacuate the building. i'm okay. just a little shaken up.

>> it's been two days since she hasn't had food or water. i don't think she's going to come home.

>> well, coming home , kind of hoping that he evacuated immediately. then he went to tower one to help people out, kids out. he died as a hero.

>> reporter: they were children, a tragedy, growing up in a world where planes became weapons and buildings crumbled, where parents left for work and never came back.

>> he was a nice man. he worked hard. he was a good father.

>> he had dark brown hair. he had eyes like mine. everybody said i looked like her.

>> reporter: katelyn 's mom left a message from the top of the tower, they had been hit, but she said she was okay. vanessa woke up after a nightmare that her dad was in danger. she begged him to stay home. he told her, bad dreams don't come true. patrick called his father's cell phone even months after he was gone, just to hear his voice. and as we watched kevin fight to be strong, he broke our hearts. your dad was a firefighter?

>> yes.

>> and your dad was one of the heroes, and he was one of the heroes who went to the world trade center that day, wasn't he?

>> yeah. a.

>> a lot for a 10-year-old to have to handle.

>> reporter: so we did what we could to ease the pain.

>> this is joe torre .

>> for seven years you have been wanting to learn how to skate?

>> hi, tara.

>> hi.

>> look.

>> katelyn , jennifer lopez .

>> reporter: wishes were granted. celebrities stepped up.

>> patrick .

>> reporter: broadway star, ballplayers, pop divas, and limp limpia limpians, left these kids with a reason to smile amid their tears. kevin hickey, katelyn , vanessa calderon, jackie bour and kathie hughes are all with us now. ladies, gentlemen, it's great to have you here. thank you for joining us. i really appreciate it. such an easy question, may be harder to answer. terrible weekend coming up? is this a date you dread on the calendar every year?

>> yeah. it's like hard because school starts and that's the first thing all teachers tell you, oh, this is the whole thing, you always have to live it wrefr yherever you go.

>> jackie?

>> you know, i really try not to think about it too much and just go on with my day. you know, he's gone every day, so it's really just another day and i don't try and dawn on it too much. but always remember him and honor him the best i can.

>> vanessa and patrick and kevin , take a look behind you. we're looking at the memorial that's been built after ten years here at ground zero . in many ways this is built for you. i mean, you are perhaps the most important people when it comes to this memorial. what do you think about it, patrick ?

>> it's overwhelming to see this. this is an enormous project. got to thank them. got to thank everybody for this. amazing.

>> vanessa ?

>> very heartbreaking to know that this happened, but we have a memory now. we can come and see where everything happened.

>> they wanted this to mean something to you guy, kevin . when you look down at it, does it touch a chord with you? does it resonate with you?

>> i don't know. it's really a beautiful thing. i didn't expect it to be this nice, you know, after whatever happened, construction, look at it now. you know? it's beautiful.

>> you guys have all had to find ways to cope with pain over these ten years. anything stand out in your lives that made the difference between you getting through it and not getting through it?

>> i think a lot of it was just thinking about my family and us all coming together and really realizing, like, we did not want to just be complacent, we did not just want to crumble and be sad. of course it was a loss and it was horrible, but to really, you know, in his honor, move on, in his honor, be a better person, in his honor, you know, marvel at things like this and really appreciate it. i think that's kind of that.

>> katelyn , you do something every year on 9/11.

>> yeah. what we always do is have a balloon and we always send it up to my mom every year on 9/11. you say a little prayer and train station memorial and go there and put a little teddy bear . something we do every year.

>> kevin , i watched the video of you the years ago. it still tears me up. i know where there were times that was tough for you, that video.

>> it did.

>> when you look back now and you see that 10-year-old, does he seem a world away?

>> more than a world away. you know, it's unbelievable to see it now because i haven't watched it in probably a good six or seven years, you know? it's crazy. unbelievable.

>> patrick , you're an artist. i know it's very important to you. did you find some solace in art throughout the years?

>> that was my escape. i used that just to get away from it all and stop thinking about it. that was what i did to cope with it.

>> you and kevin have something in common, in that you both designed tattoos.

>> yes.

>> they were dedicated to the memory of 9/11. we've got some images of those. patrick , tell me about yours.

>> well, i have one on my back that is of the towers. and then i have one on my arm that is more of a memorial to my father, the mountains, just the scenery to it, all sort of relates to what we've done together.

>> kevin , you have one on your side. and it's a poem. if i can read it, it says, if tears could build a stairway and memorys a lane, i would walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.

>> yes.

>> i mean, i know that was something that you found at your home.

>> yes. had it on the phone right outside the driveway. i looked at it and i knew right away i wanted to get that tattoo. that was the first thing i thought.

>> beautiful. is there something you want people to know about you and it's -- we can't paint with a broad brush, but, katelyn , is there something that people need to know about you as a group on this tenth anniversary?

>> i just think that like it's hard for us because it's something that we're constantly reminded of. i turn on my tv and it's always there, but we did come through it and, like, i think it's made me a stronger person and made me look at life a different way.

>> i always thought over the ten years, you all lost a parents but there were parents behind who had to endure their grief and be so brave for you as children and really be there for the challenges thats theyed them. and i think we should pay tribute to your other parents as well because they've done remarkable things. thank you all for joining us this morning. i really appreciate