Ariel Jacobs, a sales executive, was attending a meeting in the North Tower that morning when the Al Qaeda-hijacked planes sliced into it on September 11, 2001. Six days later Gabriel 'Gabi' Jacobs Dick was born.
Nearly twenty years ago, the World Trade Center came crashing down killing 2,606 people in it. 19-year-old Gabriel 'Gabi' Jacobs Dick's father was one of the victims of this terror attack that shook America. Ariel Jacobs, a sales executive, was attending a meeting in the North Tower that morning when the Al Qaeda-hijacked planes sliced into it on September 11, 2001. Six days later, the teen was born. Speaking to PEOPLE, Gabriel said that his father's death was "life-altering" and that it left him struggling with phobias. For most of his life, the teen has been scared of elevators, tall buildings, and airplanes (and would fly when absolutely necessary).
But this summer, he decided to conquer this fear by riding to the top of the World Trade Center in an elevator. It was undoubtedly one of the most difficult challenges that Gabriel has faced but the young man ultimately came out victorious. "I thought, 'I can do that — go up the elevator. And if I can do that, hopefully, I have nothing to be afraid of — at least in regards to elevators,'" he told the magazine. "The point of terrorism is to instill fear in the minds of your victims. So in a sense, if you're terrorized, they're successful."
Teen Born 6 Days After His Dad Died on 9/11 Overcomes His Elevator Fears at the World Trade Center https://t.co/Z95uV84zg9— People (@people) September 7, 2021
His momentous feat was featured and streamed on discovery+'s new documentary Rebuilding Hope: The Children of 9/11. The SUNY Purchase College junior revealed that he was quite scared as he waited for the elevator which would take him to the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center. "I'm going up there — of course it's going to happen to me," he said. "In a sense, I thought I was cursed. As soon as I go up there, there's a risk." While riding an elevator to the top of the World Trade Center would seem like a trivial task to most, it was a significant moment that changed Gabriel's life.
"Being up there, I felt a crazy release of tension, like everything was going to be okay; I'm alive and I don't have to think like that anymore. When I looked out over the city, I thought, 'This was the last view my dad had — it's not the last view I will have,'" he expressed. Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attack, Gabriel and his mother, Jenna Jacobs McPartland, are reflecting on the event that claimed many lives. "For any parent, watching their kids turn 20 and become an adult is an unreal experience — and to put that into the context of 9/11 and not having his father all these 20 years makes it all the more unreal," shared McPartland, who remarried. "I think I'm the most proud that he is a man of self-reflection and convictions and he's kind," she said of her son.
"I have wanted him to grow up, be his own person and make his own decisions on how to handle his dad's memory and the legacy of 9/11, and I'm happy he's doing that. And I'm proud of him for assuring that while 9/11 is a part of who he is today, it's not his single identity. Gabi lives in the present, and that's great for him," added the mother. Echoing his mother's sentiments Gabriel said, "I can't imagine my dad would want me to think about it all the time or ask myself crazy what-if questions. There's no answer. If I died I wouldn't want my kid to think about it all the time. Now I honor him by being alive, being happy and living a great life. My 9/11 story ends with, 'I'm okay. I'm 19. My story is still evolving.'"
Over the past two decades, PEOPLE has been documenting the journey of four teenagers- Jamie Gartenberg Pila, Alexa Smagala, Gabriel, and Ronald Milam Jr.- who are now coming of age. Directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent, the film has been produced by Talos Films in association with PEOPLE and began streaming on discovery+ since September 7.
Cover image source: YouTube Screenshot | Magnolia Network