Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the deadly September 11 terrorist attacks that damaged a section of the Pentagon and razed down New York City’s iconic World Trade Center buildings.
The al-Qaeda coordinated attacks reportedly resulted in over 2000 deaths and over 20,000 injuries. And two decades after the unfortunate incidents, relatives of some of the deceased victims recently spoke about how they’ve maneuvered their way through life without their loved ones.
One of them is Ronald Milam Jr. The 19-year-old University of Texas at San Antonio sophomore’s father was in the Pentagon when the American Airlines Flight 77 hit the west side of the building. Ronald Milam Sr., an Army Major, was 33 at the time of his death. Minutes before the tragic incident, the teen’s married parents had spoken on the phone and his father was on his way to a meeting, PEOPLE reported.
Ronald’s mother, Jacqueline Milam, also worked in the building but she was at a different section. She was an Air Force captain at the time. “9/11, it’s a part of me — it’s something that happened to me and my family but it does not define what I can be,” Ronald told the news outlet in an exclusive feature. “That’s on me.”
“The way I look at it is I’m doing exactly what every other kid that grew up in a single-parent home is doing. We’re just trying to make good out of the situation we’re dealt,” he added. “So I keep going forward.”
And despite the tragedy, Ronald, who has an older sister and a younger brother, said he’s “proud” his father “served his country.” He also opened up about how he learned about his father’s death and explained why he doesn’t want to know more about it.
“I learned about my father at a pretty young age. You’d look around and see kids — they have two parents, and you’re just wondering where yours are,” he said. “Gradually I learned that he passed away on 9/11. I mean, what can I do about it as a 10-year-old kid? Nothing. He was gone.”
“I never asked anybody about exactly what happened, including my mom,” the teen added. “I’ve learned some of the details, but I don’t think I need to know more. I don’t need closure on it. It’s past. My father was a hardworking man, a family man, an overall good guy.”
Ronald also commended his mother and shared a life lesson he learned from her as a child. “Me and my mom — our bond is unbreakable,” the teen said. “What I learned from her, when times are tough, you’ve got to keep going. When something is in her way, she goes right through it.”
And despite saying he’s his “dad’s legacy”, Ronald was quick to add he feels he’s his “own person as well.” “He built his legacy, and I think it’s time for me to build mine,” Ronald, who said he wants to be a physician’s assistant, added.
“I’ve gotten more and more serious about my life. Because that’s on me.”
The teenager is featured in a documentary together with other individuals who also lost their fathers in the deadly attack. Titled Rebuilding Hope: The Children of 9/11, the documentary features Ronald and the others opening up about the fragility of life, their unbreakable relationships with their mothers, as well as, their aspirations for the future, PEOPLE reported.
“It’s pretty cool if people see us as signs of hope,” Ronald said. “We’re just being ourselves.”
The documentary was premiered on discovery+ on Tuesday.