It's hard to imagine that little 5-year-old Max Rosenzweig would have to hear the news just days after starting kindergarten. They were words that would change everything.
“I came home from school, and I was told what happened. It just felt for the next few days that my dad was on another long business trip,” Max said.
Max’s dad, Phil Rosenzweig, worked for Sun Microsystems and was one of the many who boarded American Flight 11 at Logan that crisp September morning never to return home to his family. Left behind were Phil’s wife Lauren, his son Jeremy, who was 12, and their youngest, Max, who at such a young age experienced a loss he could only understand through the pain of those around him.
“I’ve never talked about it before. The way that I’ve sort of grew up right after it was interesting, because my mom was single after that and it was very difficult for her, and she was crying a lot for a very long time,” Max said. “I still couldn’t understand what happened.”
Father and son time is now relived through photographs and memories filled in by Mom.
“I remember a couple of isolated experiences. I remember when we were playing a little toy keyboard and we were fooling around with it, and I remember because it was a really fun time we had together. I also remember when we played with Legos and we did those sort of father-son things,” Max said.
Fifteen years old now, Max holds on to the experiences he does remember from his time cut short by what happened that September day; events that Max says still haunt him.
“I really can’t view any images of the day. It’s very disturbing for me. I’ve never actually seen the footage, and I don’t plan to because when I think I’ve had some nightmares, when I am my dad on the plane, and it’s really hard for me.”
Time has passed, and with it, Max says he has been able to heal. For the past 10 years he has spent a week every summer at America’s Camp, a summer escape for the children who lost a loved one on Sept. 11. “We all got to sort of heal together, and we always had a shoulder to cry on or someone to help us out, because we knew that everyone had gone through the same thing, and we felt like we belonged there, like we weren’t different than anyone else.”
Ten years later, this family is changed, but never forgets. Lauren remarried to Max’s stepdad George Morton a little more than a year ago. Max just started his sophomore year in high school, and doesn’t want to be defined solely by the news he got when he was in kindergarten.
“Luckily, I haven’t been the 9/11 kid at school. I managed to get through school just fine, mostly because I didn’t tell a lot of people when it happened, mostly because I didn’t understand how important it was,” Max said.
That day was important, and the father he lost and longed for has a legacy that should be defined by the life his father lived, not how it ended.
“He was really high up at Sun Microsystems, and he helped bring a lot of technology that really helps today. He was a great man, I’ve heard, and I think he should be remembered as someone who did great things for the world.”