♪ this is "nightline." >> tonight, the babies of 9/11. diane sawyer met them as infants, following them growing up. >> what's the thing that stays in your mind? >> is luck. >> not yet born when their fathers die, now young adults. >> you have to cherish the time you have with people, because things can change in an instant. >> raised by strong, resilient women. >> mom's our super hero. i'm not going to cry. >> with a message for us all. >> you've got to keep going, you know. if you always just stopped because of the what ifs, you wouldn't get anywhere. >> "nightline," "the babies
young people you're about to meet. their fathers were killed on september 11th, 2001. men they would never meet. our diane sawyer followed those children and their mothers for 20 years. heartache to hope, unimaginable grief to inspiring resilience. >> sunrise 2021. we're preparing for a big reunion and people we first met long ago are streaming toward new york. >> we can see people that we haven't seen in so many years. >> i am walking to my gate in boston. >> there are some things that we share together that no other people share. >> new york. >> on the flight to new york. >> i'm also on my way to new york's brooklyn botanic garden to meet with people i met two decades ago, after the day that
changed so many lives. charlie gibson and i are live on the air september 11th, 2001. >> i'm diane sawyer. it's tuesday, september 11th, 2001. >> it was an everyday kind of morning on "gma." charlie and i were casually talking about commuting to work. >> it is now 48 minutes after 8:00. >> a commercial pause. >> stick with us. >> and then, as we're coming back on the air, the breaking news. >> we want to tell you what we know as we know it. but we just got a report in that there has been some sort of explosion at the world trade center in new york city. >> thank you for coming in. >> over the next days, charlie and i would talk to the families of the nearly 3,000 people who died that day, and that's when we first met so many very young women, a lot of them newly wednesday. now new widows who were also pregnant. we followed these women as they desperately searched for the one person who was their whole life.
we were with them as they grappled with the mystery that the father of their baby seemed simply to have vanished. for so many, there would be no remains. >> we still hope that they'll find something or dna will provide us with something. but other than, that we have no idea what building he ran into or if he was on the street. no idea. >> barbara atwood had nothing to put in her husband's casket but his fireman's cap. for the next 20 years, we set out on the long path ahead. we are there as their babies are bo born. more than 60 babies arrive in that first year. and we're there, watching as these babies grow. with them at age 1, with them at age 5, and again, together at age 10.
which brings us to this day, 7,300 sunrises later. those young wives are coming back. and coming with them those babies almost 20 years old. robert atwood was born six months after his father, a firefighter, died at ground zero. what's the thing that stays in your mind? >> is luck. >> how do you mean? >> it's him. he has his hat on, ladder 21, all his gear. like when i'm trying to go to sleep, i look at the picture, and then i look in the mirror. he looks kind of like me. and he -- it's looking in the eyes. sometimes i have these dreams like when you can bring a person back to life and him. then i wake up.
>> and that little boy today is a college student at syracuse, wearing a chain with his dad's badge number. and what about grace danehy, born after her dad died. that high octane dad who could race down the road on a dirt bike. a dad who had a favorite band and a favorite song. >> patrick loved the eagles. and "take it easy" is one of his favorite songs. ♪ take it easy ♪ >> reporter: his three elegant girls pay tribute to that song dad-style. >> so they all have a tattoo. ♪ take it easy ♪ >> there it is! >> patrick danehy was an investment manager. ♪ baa baa black sheep ♪ >> his daughter treasures his
t-shirts. >> she had the ending before she had the beginning. >> she did. >> this i used to sleep with every night too. >> but tonight grace has a message to send. don't let longing for the dad you lost make you miss the one you have. >> and you take this ring. >> nearly half of the moms at the gathering have remarried. grace's stepdad is a quiet, gentle man her mom met in church. little grace was 4 years old when i met andy too, and he told me he seeks patrick's help in prayer. what did you pray for? >> patrick, help me be a good husband. >> and what do you call andy? >> dad. >> dad. >> how great! do you still say a prayer every now and then to patrick? >> sure do. sure do. >> so little grace teaches us all how you can weave a tapestry of family love to the adventurous dad somewhere watching over her.
and then i recognize a quiet family at a picnic table. >> hi. >> hi! >> the larsons. the mother grew up a girl from queens who married a boy from down the block. >> skinning her eyes like crazy. >> he became a dad of four and a firefighter. firefighter scott larson's daughter brenda is now a second grade teacher. >> i read a quote one time -- i love this quote. it says that grief is not a place to stay, but it's a passage. and it's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of love. and you know, you grieve so hard because you loved so hard. and it's just through your life, it's hard, but it's a new passage to something else. >> across the table, her oldest brother is living his tribute to his dad. >> hi name ■isscott brian larson. i'm named after my father, scott larson. i look exactly like my father. everything from the beauty marks on my face to every single
thing, identical. >> and exactly like his father, he's now a firefighter too, going to work every day in his father's firehouse. and did mom every say are you sure? maybe don't? >> no. she was my biggest supporter through it. i couldn't have got through the academy, what they call the 18 weeks, without her. >> without me. >> packing his lunch ever day. >> truth be told. >> make them hero. >> great men have walked this place. great men have worked here. as i continue on his legacy, try to do the best i can every day, and hopefully make me proud. >> when we come back, a mom who returns to the stage, a broadway
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are we going? >> it has been 20 years raising their children. >> mom's our super hero. i'm not going cry. >> two daughters with a super hero mom who can also light up broadway. >> come on and dance. >> who would ever believed anything could knock her down. >> mr. and mrs. calvin j. gooding would like to thank you
all. >> lesean gooding with her husband, a trader on the 104th floor. >> all calvin did is go to work that day. his job was sitting behind a desk, selling stock. i mean, it's not a dangerous position. he just went to work and just hasn't come home yet. >> she kept his clothes in the drawers. >> it's something about knowing that his sock drawer is here and it's full of his socks that comforts me a little bit, you know. i don't know why. but he is not really gone if his clothes are here. >> a month after he died, little zia was born. and lesean's and calvin already had another daughter 1 1/2 years old. one time little celia saw her mom crying and asked her to stop. she did, but she was still so exhausted, she didn't think she could go back on the broadway stage. >> i was in a workshop
rehearsal, and i have a 2-year-old. she is 6 months at the time. she woke up at 3:00 a.m. and i was dead tired. and for the first time, i really felt like you know what? i can't do this. >> but she decided the biggest gift she could give her two daughters was to see her at least try every day to get up and do the impossible. so one performance at a time, work at night when grandma f to- comes. >> all right, mom. >> okay, see you later. break a leg. >> thanks. >> yes! >> nearly 20 years ago, i saw leseans gooding in the garden with her clapping baby girl. and now in 2021, today. how are you? >> see how cute you were? >> that baby girl is now a linguistic student at university
and heading to japan to perfect her japanese. zia not only saw her mom find her song again, she saw her become on the stage. leseans starred in the color purple. and inside her powerful voice, the whole landscape of her life. ♪ look at my house, still keep the cold out, my chair where the body can't hold out ♪ >> there is still something broken, you know, and that's just a part of how we exist. we carry it with us. >> she won the tony award. >> tony award goes to la chanze! >> and that other little daughter celia saw how you pick yourself up and become a broadway star again. now celia is in "jagged little pill" and she has been nominated for a tony too, with a shout out
to her hero. >> my mom is here! >> as we walk around the gathering, reconnecting with old friends, we learned that for every woman, the path was different. both of these women had husbands on the planes that crashed into the world trade center. and one of the young widows learned that the leader of the hijacker, mohamed atta, was sitting just a few feet away from her husband dave. she is susan redick. >> imagine if mohamed atta had looked at dave, and instead of seeing an abstract enemy had seen him as a human being. >> so 18 years ago, she decided to teach her children what you do with a mountain of anger and grief. >> you're going give me hatred. i'm going put out love. >> susan and that other 9/11 widow, her friend patty quigley got on their bikes at ground zero with a big idea.
they asked people to sponsor them on a bike ride. money to help women in afghanistan. they nursed sore legs, but their first bike ride was nearly 300 miles. along the way you said to yourself were we crazy? >> i think pretty much every step of the way. >> and over the decades, they have raised more than $9 million to aid thousands of afghan widows and send one thousand afghan girls to school. and even tonight, after the horrifying turmoil in afghanistan, they vow they will not give up their fight. >> do any of the children go to school? >> you've got to keep going, you know. if you always just stopped because of the what ifs, you -- you wouldn't get anywhere. >> and tomorrow morning, when these moms set off again, someone you met years ago will be right there alongside them. >> woo! >> susan redick's baby dina, now 19 and biking too.
♪ and as the sun begins to set on our gathering, we have an idea. a blank canvas. we ask the kids to use it to send a kind of message to the world. this generation of kids who have lived through so much trauma, school shootings, financial collapse, and now covid, carrying inside them a kind of strength from the day the nation stood still. >> i have the tools to recognize okay, i'm losing something and then this is hoy i'm going to deal wit. >> it guess back to the whole 9/11 thing. you to cherish the time you have with people, because things can change in an instant. >> we all are waking up in the morning, putting on our clothes and trying to make it through this world. we can make this place better. we can strive for the future. we just -- together, unity,
community. >> and inside that word " community, unity, and the hope of a nation. >> in the blink of an eye, our world can change. in the moments we share together, we find the strength to carry on. unity will show you that with hands held, we will see tomorrow. >> our thanks to diana. w'll be back with a final find your rhythm. your happy place. find your breaking point. then break it. every emergen-c gives you a potent blend of nutrients so you can emerge your best with emergen-c. breyers is always so delicious... i can tell that they used your milk, matilda. great job! moo you're welcome. breyers natural vanilla is made with 100% grade a milk and cream and only sustainably farmed vanilla. better starts with breyers.
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and finally tonight, 20 years ago in lower manhattan, i was there. i was a young correspondent then. i saw people die. i saw the buildings fall. and like thousands who survived, i ran for my life. as we ran, i remember people falling. they weren't canceled or trampled. instead, strangers stopped and picked them up. we ran together. we were different genders and races, different political parties, different stations of life academically, socially. different jobs, but we were not divided.
we had a common goal, stay alive an tsonexo us do the same. differences did not matter. somehow spontaneously, we individually collectively refused to be divided. 20 years later, we're not all that different, but we are divided. people who know me know i am a flawed man with a deep faith. i don't know what the future holds, but i know who holds the future. i also know the america i saw and felt 20 years ago. that america lives. that america endures. today's divide, like the broken concrete and twisted steel strewn across lower manhattan 20 years ago. we as a nation cleaned it up, eventually. we rebuilt, eventually. so our history suggests our divide will be bridged, eventually. so my prayer tonight that it will not take another horrific disaster of historic proportions for us to set siaside our