'She bubbled. She was so kind,' said Eunice. 'If she did get into mischief, she found a way to make everyone laugh.'
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 10, 2021.
Two-and-a-half-year-old Christine Lee Hanson was less than an hour into her first airplane ride on the morning of September 11, 2001, when her dad rang his parents from the plane. "Dad, I think we're being hijacked," Peter Hanson told his father over the phone, reports NBC News. Peter, his wife, Sue Kim, and Christine were on their way to California to see relatives and go to Disneyland when the flight they were on—United Airlines Flight 175—was hijacked by five al-Qaeda terrorists. At about 9:03 a.m. ET, the aircraft crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, killing the Hansons and thousands of others. Christine was the youngest victim of the 9/11 attacks, one of eight children killed that day.
Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Peter's mom, Eunice Stylos Hanson, remembered her late granddaughter as "a really special little girl." She still remembers the time young Christine brought her a Band-Aid while she was recovering from foot surgery, thinking it would help. "She bubbled. She was so kind," said Eunice. "If she did get into mischief, she found a way to make everyone laugh." The grieving grandmother recalled that the last time she spoke to Christine was two nights before the devastating terrorist attack when she called to wish the family a good trip.
Born on February 22, 1999, Christine lived with her parents in Groton, Massachusetts, and loved to help her father with gardening, Eunice said. The young girl shared a special bond with her grandfather, Lee Hanson, and "just clung to him when we went to visit," she revealed. Both Eunice and Lee were close with their granddaughter and cherished the occasions they stayed with her overnight when her parents were away. They'd been looking forward to meeting her again at a friend's wedding shortly after the Disney vacation and couldn't wait to see her signature dance move, Christine's "happy dance."
A rose was left for Christine Lee Hanson, today on her birth date. She was the youngest victim of the 9/11 attacks. pic.twitter.com/16xSkoRHx7— 9/11 Memorial & Museum (@Sept11Memorial) February 22, 2016
Eunice is still haunted by a detail that almost spared her loved ones from the tragedy. She revealed that the Hansons were originally scheduled to fly out on September 10 but had to move their flight at the last minute because Peter, a vice president of sales for a software company, had a work conflict. "That killed me," she said. "For over a year, I couldn't talk about it." Lee and Eunice were eating breakfast in their home in Easton, Connecticut, when they received Peter's call. Immediately after the call, Lee called authorities but was informed that a different plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York.
Turning on the television, the couple saw the tower burning. Even as they tried to process the devastating scenes unfolding on their TV screen, Peter called again. This time, he told Lee that his plane was going to crash. "Don't worry," he told his father. However, the last words Lee heard from his son were: "Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" Recalling the utterly devastating moments that transpired, Eunice said: "We had the television on at the time, and we saw the plane crash into the second tower. Lee hung up the phone and he was never the same."
Lee, who died in November 2018, did not get to see the September 11 defendants go to trial. Given the numerous delays in the case, Eunice doubts she will either. If she does get the chance, Eunice said she would ask the defendants a simple question. "After I got finished swearing at them, I would ask them, 'How could you possibly have looked into my little granddaughter's eyes and want to kill her?'" she said. "How could you have so much hate?" Today, Christine would have been 22 years old. When she thinks of her late granddaughter, Eunice remembers how she always brought joy into everyone's lives. "She was just a special little child," she said.