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Radio 9/11

Great, great piece by Benjy Sarlin about two of his high school classmates at Stuyvesant, Jukay Hsu and Himanshu Suri, who went from organizing the student body of the high school traumatized in the wake of the attacks to careers setting up media organizations in Iraq and as half of Das Racist, respectively:

Ten years later, neither is completely sure how 9/11 affected him. “I can’t afford therapy,” Suri jokes. The connections are clearer in his case: he credits the attacks with planting the seeds of racial consciousness that would eventually define his rap aesthetic. “It was the first time there was a feeling of pan-people-of-color for all the South Asian people, the Pakistani kids, the Indian kids,” he said of that period. “It was the first time we made jokes about it amongst each other, referring to ourselves as brown, in order to cope.”…

From the outside, it’s hard not to read into Hsu’s career choice as well — Army officers with both a Stuyvesant diploma and Harvard degree aren’t exactly a dime a dozen — but he downplays the connection to 9/11. He developed a passion for development as an undergraduate, but ultimately decided to enter the Army over pursuing a Ph.D. in economics. In 2008, he was shipped to Iraq to lead a rifle platoon in the Sunni triangle. After a few months of patrols and raids, his battalion commander took note of his interest in local government and tasked him with leading development projects for an area roughly the size of Delaware. His proudest achievement was helping launch the region’s first local radio station.

It’s interesting to me that, in their own ways, both Hsu and Suri went into communications. It would be fascinating to see some sort of data about what careers college and high-school students on September 11 thought they were going into before the attacks and what they actually ended up doing for a living. Of course, everyone’s plans change along the way, but I’d love to know if the arc ended up bending towards public service or inter-cultural understanding in the way we like to think it did.

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