Sept. 11 was the first time then-eighth grader Beth O'Connor ever really saw the World Trade Center.
Her father had worked in one of the Twin Towers for a few years, but as she was only a baby at that time, she had never made the trip from Bronxville down to his office in Lower Manhattan.
"There's a scene in Home Alone II when Kevin arrives in New York City, and he walks around the Twin Towers. That scene stands out in my mind," she said. "I think that's the only thing I remember about them before the attacks."
Name: Beth O'Connor
Hometown: Bronxville, NY
Age on 9/11: 13
Education: Boston College
In her own words:
"The husband of one of my friends' babysitter was a UPS delivery man who was delivering a package to the building at the time of the attack and was killed. That was probably the saddest I remember feeling. What a horrible coincidence."
The Bronxville middle schooler didn't personally know anyone who was in the buildings at the time of the attack, but her father certainly did. A number of his old co-workers were killed that day, leaving him devastated.
It was his raw emotions that ultimately made her realize her world had spun off its axis.
"I remember getting in the car with my dad to go for a drive, and at one turn on the highway, when the horizon opened up a bit, we could see the smoke from the attack," O'Connor said. "We were 15 miles away. It wasn't so much seeing the smoke that made things real for me, but it was picking up on my dad's emotions when he saw that smoke. He was clearly upset and dumbfounded."
That moment paved the way for an experience O'Connor would have a couple of days later at hockey practice.
By that afternoon, the aviation industry was given the go-ahead to proceed with flights, and the first sound of a nearby plane registered in O'Connor's ears.
"Before, I wouldn't have ever taken notice of a plane flying overheard," she said. "But in that moment, I remember being very sensitive to what had happened."
O'Connor said that while 9/11 will be remembered as an important but not central moment in her generation's history.
"It has certainly presented new challenges and priorities for our country and for the world," she said. "While these changes don't affect me on a daily basis, they hold an incredible influence on our nation and world on a broader scale."
This fall, O'Connor returned to her alma mater Boston College to pursue a master's degree in education.