Gabriel's father was attending a meeting at the New York restaurant in the World Trade Center on the fateful morning of September 11, 2001.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 9, 2021.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks changed America and the world forever and 21 years on, those who suffered personal losses are making peace with the past. For Gabriel Jacobs Dick, 9/11 was a moment that redefined his life. He wasn't even born and attacks meant that he would come into the world without a father. "It altered my path from day one. It was like the butterfly effect — the way that every event leads into the next. A chain reaction," said Gabriel, reported People. His Dad, Ariel Jacobs was a sales executive and was attending a meeting at the New York restaurant Windows on the World in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on the fateful morning of September 11, 2001. Jacobs lost his life in the attack, just days before his 30th birthday and six days before his son Gabi was born.
Gabi's story was part of a segment from the documentary "Rebuilding Hope: The Children of 9/11." People magazine partnered with Talos Films to document the lives of children who lost a parent to the 9/11 attacks before they were born. They were 19 and 20 years old when they opened up about how the attacks changed their lives and how they and their families have coped with the loss. The documentary was put together by Oscar-and Emmy-winning director Ellen Goosenberg Kent. Each story follows a different path but the trajectory of their lives all begin on September 11, 2001.
"These children are what comes after 9/11," said Jenna Jacobs, Gabriel's Mom. "They are the joy, the salve, the ointment. They're the love." It was only recently that he got to see videos of his dad and he described the experience as "surreal." Gabriel has grown up seeing many pictures of his dad but to watch a video stirred something in him. "Something about being 19 and hearing my dad's voice for the first time — that pushed an emotional button I didn't know I had. I was like, 'This is a real person. He's right in front of me,'" said Gabriel who was 19 years old and a junior at SUNY Purchase College in 2021.
Gabriel has had a deep fear of airplanes, elevators and tall buildings, having grown up to learn how his father died. He said he had avoided elevators and flew only if he had to. Gabriel had a deep-rooted belief that if he could go up an elevator at the World Trade Center, he could overcome his fear. Reflecting on his fear, Gabriel said the attacks managed to do what the perpetrators intended. "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."
A month before the 20th anniversary of the attacks, he decided to try taking the elevator. As he stood at the bottom of the elevator waiting for the 102-floor ride to the One World Observatory at the World Trade Center, he felt a sense of dread rush to him. He always believed he was cursed. "I'm going up there—of course it's going to happen to me," he recalled of the moment. "As soon as I go up there, there's a risk." He took a leap of faith and went to the very top. Gabriel felt a "crazy release of tension" and saw a life filled with hope. "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,'" said Gabriel.
On the eve of the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, the powerful new event special from Diane Sawyer – reuniting with the children born right after 9/11. The strength, the resilience, the love. The 20/20 Special premieres Friday night on ABC. pic.twitter.com/HOUQpqI633— 20/20 (@ABC2020) September 4, 2021
Gabriel, who has never known his father, feels connected when he does something "goofy" that reminds his mom of his dad. His mom is immensely proud of him. "I think I'm the proudest that he is a man of self-reflection and convictions and he's kind," said Jenna. "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." Gabriel said he doesn't want the attacks to define his life and said his father wouldn't want him to either. "Now I honor him by being alive, being happy, and living a great life," he said.