September 9, 2011

Ten Years In

In this show, we return to people who've been on This American Life in the last ten years, whose lives were drastically altered by 9/11, including Hyder Akbar, an Afghan-American teen who moved to Afghanistan after his father was tapped to become governor of Kunar province there. And Marian Fontana, whose husband Dave was a firefighter who died in the Twin Towers; and Lynn Simpson, who escaped from the 89th floor and made it out of the World Trade Center with about a minute to spare.

Rob Geddis helped with the music in this episode.


Host Ira Glass talks to someone who escaped from the twin towers with a minute to spare and someone who lost her husband on 9/11. Both say they try to avoid 9/11 commemorations. If that's true, then who are they for? (3 minutes)
Act One

Kabul Kabul Kabul Kabul Chameleon

Hyder Akbar was a teenager living with his family in the Bay Area when president Hamid Karzai asked Hyder's dad to return to Afghanistan and become an official in the new government. Hyder recorded audio diaries that became two episodes of our show, in 2002 and 2003, both produced by Susan Burton. They also wrote a book. Ira checks in with Hyder, who is now an adult living and working in Afghanistan. (18 minutes)

Act Three

Put on a Happy Face

In 2008, reporter Chris Neary told the story of John, a soldier who returned from tours of Iraq and Afghanistan with severe PTSD, and ended up attacking his fiancee and her mother. Chris finds out how John is coping today. (6 1/2 minutes)

Act Four

What's Arabic for Fjord?

The podcast and stream versions of the show include a story here that is not included in broadcast. It catches us up with an Iraqi translator named Basim, who fled the country to Norway after his life was threatened because he aided the American forces. The original ran in 2007.

Act Five

Bad Teacher

Alix Spiegel revisits a story she reported in 2006 - which caused more listeners to email us than any other story we've broadcast. It was about a Muslim American girl named "Chloe," who was tormented at school after the students had a lesson on 9/11. Alix is a correspondent for NPR News. (10 minutes)

A Correction: In this story, we accidentally misreported a statistic. We stated that according to FBI statistics, about 10 percent of hate crimes in 2009 were against Muslims. In fact, about 10 percent of religiously-motivated hate crimes were against Muslims. It was 128 of the 1,376 religiously-motivated hate crimes that year (9.3 percent). In all, there were 7,789 hate crime offenses in 2009, so incidents against Muslims were 1.6% of the total, which is tiny. That same year, there were 2,724 hate crimes against Black people, 798 hate crimes against gay men and 964 hate crimes against Jews, according to the FBI. A table of the data is here on the FBI's website. Our reporter misread this summary. We're grateful to the listener who emailed and pointed this out, Robert Ben Garant.

Act Six


On 9/11, Lynn Simpson escaped from the 89th floor of the World Trade Center. Ira talks with her about what's changed since she first appeared on the show, just a week after the attacks in 2001. (7 minutes)

Here are some other past This American Life episodes and stories relating to 9/11 and its aftermath:

Some of the many stories and shows we've done about Iraq: