Not yet alive during 9/11, Hersey graduate interviews firefighters for firsthand history lesson

  • Benjamin Popovici, from right, meets Deborah Nelson, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary and Veterans Memorial Committee of Arlington Heights, following a 9/11 anniversary assembly Friday at Hersey High School. Popovici produced a documentary following his recent interviews with first responders from New York.

    Benjamin Popovici, from right, meets Deborah Nelson, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary and Veterans Memorial Committee of Arlington Heights, following a 9/11 anniversary assembly Friday at Hersey High School. Popovici produced a documentary following his recent interviews with first responders from New York. Courtesy of Deborah Nelson

  • John Hersey High School hosted a Sept. 11 memorial event Friday attended by Gold Star families, firefighters, police, veterans, health care workers, former Gov. Pat Quinn and other dignitaries. Recent Hersey graduate Benjamin Popovici was also recognized for his recent 9/11 anniversary documentary.

    John Hersey High School hosted a Sept. 11 memorial event Friday attended by Gold Star families, firefighters, police, veterans, health care workers, former Gov. Pat Quinn and other dignitaries. Recent Hersey graduate Benjamin Popovici was also recognized for his recent 9/11 anniversary documentary. Courtesy of Deborah Nelson

 
 
Updated 9/10/2021 8:45 PM

At 18, Benjamin Popovici is among the 2021 high school graduates who weren't yet alive when New York's twin towers were struck two decades ago.

"I've never seen anything like that," he said after viewing footage of the buildings falling for the first time.

 

But the John Hersey High School graduate and Mount Prospect resident got a firsthand history lesson this summer after interviewing 10 of the September 11, 2001, first responders for a short documentary he filmed and produced. The eight-minute presentation, available at vimeo.com/597396516, was played in all English classes at the Arlington Heights high school on Friday and was shown to Gold Star families and former Gov. Pat Quinn at the school's Sept. 11 assembly.

"I kind of wanted to pay my respects, just help out the veterans, and give them more acknowledgment," said Popovici, now a student at Harper College. "I knew from my class in high school no one really knew what 9/11 was."

Popovici traveled to Oxford, Maine, in June with three other students and four Hersey staff members to document various stories surrounding a home-build project for a disabled veteran. Hersey has been involved in the A Soldier's Journey Home volunteer effort for nearly a decade.

Volunteering for this particular construction project were a number of firefighters, including several from New York City. Popovici worked with his Hersey media teacher, Todd Hatfield, on planning the video project since the spring.

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The documentary includes interviews with about a half-dozen firefighters and archived video from the attack and aftermath.

Popovici, now studying computer science in college, says he considers making videos a hobby or side job, having done work for his local church and family and friends. But the 9/11 anniversary video is the biggest project he's done to date.

"I wanted to bring awareness," he said.

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