A nineteen-year-old man who was born just 6 days after the tragic 9/11 terror attacks, has finally faced his fear of elevators and took the 102-floor ride to One World Observatory. Featured in the new series Rebuilding Hope: The Children of 9/11, streaming now on discovery+, Gabriel Jacobs is one of the thousands of children who still face the traumatic events of the terrorist attacks every day.
As the 2-decade anniversary of one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in US history looms over the people of the USA, PEOPLE have spoken to the children of those who lost their lives, whether in the building attacks or as part of the first response team who gave their lives.
“Losing my dad was life-altering, not life-changing,” Gabriel Jacobs Dick begins. “It altered my path from day one. It was like the butterfly effect — the way that every event leads into the next. A chain reaction.”
Gabriel’s dad was sales executive Ariel Jacobs, who had unfortunately attended a meeting in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th, 2001.
Now a junior at SUNY Purchase College, Gabriel only recently saw videos of his father.
“It was surreal. Something about being nineteen and hearing my dad’s voice for the first time — that pushed an emotional button I didn’t know I had,” he tells the outlet. “My whole life, it was up to my imagination to turn him into a person. There was nothing to go off of except photos. Seeing him on film with his friends and traveling to Buenos Aires, I was like, ‘This is a real person. He’s right in front of me.’ “
As expected, Gabriel had grown up and gone through his childhood and early adulthood with a great fear of elevators, and tall buildings.
“I always avoided elevators and flew only when I had to,” he says. “That’s where my dad was right before.”
However, it all changed one day when he was at a local skate park in Brooklyn, and Gabriel looked out at the Manhattan skyline and thought long about the fears that had held over him for so long.
“I thought, ‘I can do that — go up the elevator. And if I can do that, hopefully, I have nothing to be afraid of — at least in regards to elevators,'” he continues. “The point of terrorism is to instill fear in the minds of your victims. So in a sense, if you’re terrorized, they’re successful.”
Last month, he finally faced his fear.
“I’m going up there — of course it’s going to happen to me,” he reminisces, thinking at the bottom of the elevator as he awaited the 102-floor ride to the One World Observatory, which has now been rebuilt near Ground Zero as an everlasting memorial.
Reflecting on his connection with his father, he reminisces: “The only times I feel connected to him in a sort of magical sense is when I do something goofy and my mom looks at me in the way she does when I do something he would have done. That’s when I think there’s something here that can’t be explained.”
Gabriel’s mom, Jenna Jacobs McPartland, has to also relive the horrific attacks of that day as the twentieth-anniversary approaches. She remembers it only as of the earth-shattering tragedy which took her husband’s life.
“For any parent, watching their kids turn twenty and become an adult is an unreal experience — and to put that into the context of 9/11 and not having his father all these twenty years makes it all the more unreal,” she explained.
“I think I’m the proudest that he is a man of self-reflection and convictions and he’s kind.”
She continues: “I have wanted him to grow up, be his own person and make his own decisions on how to handle his dad’s memory and the legacy of 9/11, and I’m happy he’s doing that. And I’m proud of him for assuring that while 9/11 is a part of who he is today, it’s not his single identity. Gabi lives in the present, and that’s great for him.”
Rebuilding Hope: The Children of 9/11 streams exclusively on discovery+ beginning September 7th.