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Teens Ready to Move On

Anniversary: Group of young writers meets to talk about how Sept. 11 changed their lives.


A year ago, a group of teenagers met and discussed apprehension about the pending war, anger over anti-Arab American sentiment, horror over images of the burning World Trade Center towers and fear for their safety.

On Saturday, nearly 30 teens gathered in the same manner as they had last year at the headquarters of LA Youth newspaper, to talk about how their lives have changed in the past year.

This time, the resounding sentiment was that Americans need to stop dwelling on the disaster and sorrow and move on.

Connie Chung, 15, a Gabrielino High School student, said she still can't watch the news without hearing something about terrorism, war or grief. "I'm sick of it; it's getting tired," she said.

Beverly Hills High School student Jennifer Gottesfeld, 16, said: "We've become a little bit desensitized. After the 150th time, it was like, please stop playing this."

The students who met Saturday are contributors to LA Youth, an independent newspaper written by teenagers for a teenage readership. Some are aspiring journalists who regularly follow media coverage, while others are interested in politics and current events. Many said they are dreading the anniversary because the media will rehash news stories about loss and fear.

Donna Myrow, LA Youth executive director, said most teens are over the shock and distress of Sept. 11. Instead, they are thinking, "What is my next step?" she said.

"They move on with new trends, fashion, music, entertainment," she said. "They're looking at how they're going to finance college, and how they're going to get through high school."

A year later, teens say their lives have changed only in minor ways. Some schools began allowing cell phones in case of emergencies last year. One teenager said it is now a major pain to get his pager or laptop computer through airline security. Another teen was annoyed that in the past year her favorite soap opera has been interrupted by newscasts about war or terrorism threats. Some said their e-mail boxes have been bombarded with post-9/11 chain letters, myths and jokes about Osama bin Laden.

Others, like Gottesfeld, have been more seriously affected.

Gottesfeld is worried about how she will pay for college. She had a limited budget to begin with, and since the economy has plunged, more students may apply to less expensive colleges, making admittance for her even more difficult, she said.

For Tory Fine, a 17-year-old student at Marlborough School in Hancock Park, Sept. 11 made her more committed to her future career.

"Before Sept. 11, I wanted to be a journalist because I thought it would be really fun and I enjoy writing," she said.

After watching the media coverage, which she said was at times sensationalistic, she said she wants to play a role in how news is presented. She wants it to be more informative and responsible, and less propaganda, she said.

"I have a purpose now," she said.

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