Kyra Bolden was a child when 9/11 changed the world before her eyes. Here’s how it shaped her journey as a public servant.

SOUTHFIELD, MI — For many people, Sept. 11, 2001, is a date time stamped in their minds. 

Most remember exactly where they were when they learned that the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Time stopped. Everything forever shifted in that moment in the hour and 42 minutes it took for the buildings to come down.

For then-13 year old Kyra Bolden, she saw the tragedy replayed on television — the frightening images of steel birds colliding into two roughly 1,300 feet, 500,000-ton buildings that fell into piles of rubble. Those moments all flashed before Bolden’s eyes when she was in her seventh grade teacher Mr. Perry’s classroom at Birney Middle School that fateful morning. 

That Fateful Day

“I remember him telling us a terrorist attack occurred in the United States and New York. Mr. Perry turned on the TV in our classroom and I feel like that moment was the first time my sense of security was shattered,” Bolden said. “I think that was probably the greatest lesson. That was the first time my sense of safety was actually challenged in a profound way.”

In Mr. Perry’s classroom, Bolden recalls her teacher engaging the students that day. Asking them what steps should be taken to correct the wrongs.

“He said what steps do you think the United States should take based on this act of terror?” Bolden said, adding that some students said that the country should go to war, and some were just stunned. “I knew at least a few of us knew what this meant in terms of what that would look like in our lifetime. So a conversation quickly led to the draft and what that also looks like.”

State Rep. Kyra Bolden supports disenfranchised residents in Southfield and beyond. (Photo courtesy Kyra Bolden)

Bolden said that at such a young age she appreciates being able to process that information through conversation. Growing up in Southfield she said she grew up in a “majority-minority” community with Black, Chaldean, and Jewish residents primarily.

“At that time even when we found out what happened and the reasoning behind it I don’t remember any kind of anti-Islamic commentary growing up,” she said, adding that everyone was patriotic. “(We were) trying to wrap our arms around each other as a country and processing what this means for the average family in our community.”

She said later on she heard stories of how some ethnic groups were discriminated against.

“I think it definitely affected the sense of safety and security I personally felt,” she said, adding that she grew up in the era of the Columbine shooting (a couple years prior to the terrorist attacks). She dealt with active shooter drills and more. “For people that are my age then the economy crashed and the result of the war on Iraq and Afghanistan — that kind of shaped your worldview.”

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Memories Not Forgotten

Leaving Southfield to pursue a higher education she faced micro aggressions, racism, and witnessed a lot of anti-Islamic rhetoric; something foreign to her in her earlier school years back home.

“I didn’t experience much racism growing up,” Bolden said. “Our school was so diverse,” she said, recalling growing up singing Hanukkah songs in elementary school, celebrating Jewish holidays in middle school and beyond. “I can only imagine what some of those families felt during that time with their culture and religion being attributed to a terrorist act which they obviously had nothing to do with.”

Bolden said that leaving, and later returning, to Southfield helped her to understand the world better, and that inspired her to become a politician.

“I am glad I had that experience that led to my fight as a politician to make sure our laws are not inherently unequal or unequitable,” Bolden said. “That is something very important to me – that I make sure that I call out any disparities that affect black and brown people disproportionately.”

As an attorney she is making good on her promise.

“You can see the impact that laws have with black and brown people,” she said that it is her passion to make sure that policies correcting injustices exist. “This is something I need to be fighting for.”

Forging Ahead 

Sept. 11 is Patriot Day and 19 years to the day when the terrorist attacks changed and shaped our world. The state representative Bolden (D-35) recalls how she grew up a lot that day and how she was influenced to go into politics.

On Patriot Day, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered U.S. and Michigan flags within the State Capitol Complex and upon all public buildings and grounds across the state of Michigan to be lowered to half-staff on Sept. 11, according to the state of Michigan

“On this day nineteen years ago, in the aftermath of one of the worst attacks in our nation’s history, Americans banded together and proved that love is stronger than hate,” said Gov. Whitmer. “This tragedy will always serve as a reminder of the strength, resilience, and compassion that Michiganders and all Americans possess. We are thankful for our first responders, firefighters, law enforcement, and military who showed true heroism and selfless courage in the wake of the attacks. We can remember the victims of 9/11 through acts of service toward each other and by fighting for a more inclusive and just society.” 

Remembrance Day honors the nearly 3,000 men, women, and children who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and recognizes the struggles that their families and loved ones continue to face. 19 years ago today, four commercial airliners were hijacked and directed toward the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Governor Whitmer urges all citizens to take a moment to remember those who lost their lives, and carry forward the ideals of liberty, equality, and justice for all. Find out more information in the state’s proclamation.

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The State of Michigan honors Patriot Day by lowering flags to half-staff. Michigan residents, businesses, schools, local governments and other organizations also are encouraged to display the flag at half-staff.

To lower flags to half-staff, flags should be hoisted first to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The process is reversed before the flag is lowered for the day.

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