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Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

4/5 (17 ratings)
155 pages
2 hours
Jun 28, 2016


From the critically acclaimed author of Anything But Typical comes a “tense…and thought-provoking” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) look at the days leading up to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and how that day impacted the lives of four middle schoolers.

Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day—until a plane struck the World Trade Center.

But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he hates and the grandmother he loves. Will’s father is gone, too, killed in a car accident that has left the family reeling. Naheed has never before felt uncomfortable about being Muslim, but at her new school she’s getting funny looks because of the head scarf she wears. Aimee is starting a new school in a new city and missing her mom, who has to fly to New York on business.

These four don’t know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in ways they never could have imagined. Award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves together their stories into an unforgettable novel about that seemingly perfect September day—the day our world changed forever.
Jun 28, 2016

About the author

Nora Raleigh Baskin is the author of What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows, Almost Home, and Basketball (or Something Like It). She grew up in Brooklyn and New Paltz, New York, and currently lives in Connecticut with her husband and two sons.

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Nine, Ten - Nora Raleigh Baskin


Everyone will mention the same thing, and if they don’t, when you ask them, they will remember. It was a perfect day.

More than eight million people lived in New York City that year, so of course, not everyone’s day started perfectly. There was excitement and pain, anxiety and boredom, love and loneliness, anger and joy. But everyone who looked up that morning must have marveled, whether noting it out loud or not: What a perfect day.

The sky was robin’s-egg blue. There were one or two fluffy, almost decorative clouds. It was late-summer warm, so the air was still and clear, not the least bit humid. Warm the exact way you would set the temperature of the earth, if you could. Clear, with just enough breeze so you knew you were outside, breathing fresh air. People would remember that day with all sorts of adjectives: serene, lovely, cheerful, invigorating, peaceful, quiet, astounding, crystalline, blue.


Until 8:46 a.m., when the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center and nothing would ever be the same again.

But that has not happened yet.


September 9, 2001

7:46 a.m. CDT

O’Hare International Airport

It was September 9, 2001, raining in that Chicago slow-drizzle sort of way. Outside the windows of O’Hare International Airport, the sky was painted a particular shade of gray and leaving droplets of water on the large glass windows that looked out onto the airstrip.

Sergio and another boy from New York were at the gate, early for their flight home. Their university escort was sitting, eyes closed, listening to her Discman, waiting for the boys to board so she could go home.

What was the other boy’s name? Sergio couldn’t remember. L-something? Or M-something? For two days Sergio had recognized him as, simply, the white boy with the red hair.

Let’s go see what’s in the candy shop.

The redheaded boy pointed to the newsstand, which was filled with everything anyone could possibly think of needing before getting onto a plane: newspapers, magazines, headrests, paperback novels, earphones, small suitcases, cold drinks, and lots of candy.

Sergio glanced over at the escort, who didn’t look up. She didn’t even open her eyes.

Okay, Sergio said. He took one more glance around to make sure they could find their way back to their gate. Everything in the airport appeared the same, every corner, every window, every set of plastic seats, every gate. It would be easy to get lost. Sergio made sure he would not. Then he checked the information on the board again.

Flight 563, JFK.

On time, gate 10.

His grandmother would be getting up right about now. It was Sunday. Her one day to sleep in. But she was probably up already, making coffee, knowing Sergio would be home in a few hours.

Sergio didn’t realize how homesick he was, he had been, the whole time, until just then, when he started thinking about his grandmother. It was the first time he had ever been away from home. And he’d only agreed to go at all because his grandma was so proud of him.

Five kids from New York State had been chosen to be honored at this ceremony at the University of Chicago, all based on one math test they had taken at the end of last year. And for that Sergio had been flown to Chicago, put up in a hotel, and given three meals a day, and when they had called his name—his full name, Sergio Kinkaid Williams—he had walked across the gigantic stage of the Court Theatre and received his plaque, which was now weighing down his carry-on bag as he perused the newsstand.

Kinkaid was his father’s last name. Of his father, that was pretty much all he wanted to know.

You getting anything to eat? the redheaded boy asked when they got into the checkout line.

Sergio slipped his hand into his jeans pocket to feel the twenty-dollar bill his grandmother had given him three days ago. He didn’t want to break it if he didn’t have to.

Don’t they give us lunch or breakfast or something on the plane?

Yeah, but they won’t give us Kit Kat bars. The boy with the red hair put two candy bars on the counter.

Sergio shook his head. Nah, I’m good.

They finished checking out, and the boy handed Sergio one of the Kit Kats. I hate to eat alone, he said.

Thanks. Sergio took the candy. He wasn’t expecting that. It was nice.

The redheaded boy began to unwrap his candy, then stopped. He appeared to be more interested in something across the store. That is so weird, isn’t it? he said. He pointed. What’s she got on her head?

Sergio tried to figure out what the boy was talking about, but didn’t see anything. What’s weird? Who?

Her. The boy gestured across the news shop, to a girl with her back toward them, facing a full wall of magazines.

She was wearing regular clothes, jeans and a sweater, but her head was wrapped in a shawl, a thin brown veil. Sergio knew what that meant. She was Muslim. There were a lot of Muslim girls in his neighborhood and in his school, but this kid had probably never seen anyone dressed like that. He was from way upstate New York somewhere.

At that moment the girl turned toward them as if she had heard them talking. Her head scarf completely covered her head and neck, all the way down to her shoulders. Like a child’s drawing, her pale face was floating in a sea of brown fabric. Her lips pressed together. Her brow furrowed. Her eyes were blue, like the Mediterranean Sea.

Hey, man. Let’s go, Sergio said.

It was so not cool to stare.

*  *  *

Naheed was used to it. Being looked at. She was used to people asking if she was wearing a costume. Or saying:

I didn’t know you were Arab.

Can you belly dance?

Do you believe in God?

Do you really not eat for a month?

She wasn’t Arab. She was Middle Eastern. Well, she was American, born twelve years ago in Columbus, Ohio, and she had never lived anywhere else. She had never once been to Iran, where her Persian mother and father had grown up. She couldn’t belly dance either.

But she was used to people staring as soon as she left her house, her neighborhood, her school, her friends, and was out in public, as she was here in O’Hare Airport, waiting for her uncle and aunt to arrive.

Their flight hadn’t come in yet. Naheed’s family could have just waited outside for Uncle Iman and Aunt Judith to go through security and baggage, but her dad wanted to be right at the gate when his brother got off the plane, so they had gotten to the airport early. Really early. They had already had snacks, gone to the bathroom, and wandered through all the gift shops, and Uncle Iman’s plane was still not here.

Why don’t you get yourself a magazine? Naheed’s father offered. One I would approve of, he quickly added.

Naheed gazed at the display wall. There were hundreds of magazines, all with exciting, colorful covers, pretty girls, beautiful clothing, and lots of bare skin. But there wasn’t one magazine on this wall her father would let her buy. The girls with their hair blowing freely all around their heads like someone had a fan right in their faces, their bare arms showing even though they were advertising winter fashions; Naheed knew it was immodest.

A girl does not need to flaunt her beauty to the world, her mother had told her many times. Real beauty is inside, and the right boy will see that.

Naheed decided she didn’t need anything after all. She turned to head back to her family. Only now there were people everywhere, filling the news shop, heading in all directions, strolling, rushing, dragging children and bags, but nowhere did she see her mother’s or father’s or little sister’s familiar face.

Her father had been standing right there a minute ago.

Hadn’t he?

Naheed looked straight ahead in the direction she had just come from. Or was it that way? Or there? It all looked the same. There were faces everywhere, but no one she knew.

Her heart started to pump more quickly, and she felt the heat filling up her body. A tiny band of sweat formed instantly across her forehead. How would she ever find them?

She could feel tears springing into the corners of her eyes.

There were people all around her. Too many people. Too many faces. She didn’t want to start crying, but it was about to happen anyway. She kept walking, looking down at the ground, hoping her feet would keep working even if her brain wasn’t. In this way she banged directly into something solid, unmoving, and talking.

Hey, watch where you’re going.

Naheed looked up. It was so weird—for a second it seemed that a girl from one of those magazines had actually stepped out and was here, right in front of her.

Light brown hair, long and straight, carefully pulled away from her face and delicate neck. She had perfect skin, and a perfect outfit: white T-shirt with some kind of logo, tucked into her belted jeans.

Oh no, now look what happened, the girl said.

The impact of two bodies had sent the girl’s bag spilling onto the floor. ChapStick. A water bottle, a Walkman, and a plastic change purse, unfortunately not quite tightly closed.

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. . . . Now surely Naheed was going to cry. She began to bend down next to the girl to help her, when she saw, across the way, her little sister, Nouri, waving her arms.

Here! Here, Nouri was saying.

Naheed felt a wash of comfort pour over her. Her mind cleared. Her heart slowed with relief, then sped back up with joy.

She hadn’t lost them.

There was her family, standing by the far window. The plane had arrived. Even Uncle Iman and Aunt Judith were a welcome sight.

Naheed stopped trying to collect the girl’s things. She stood up.

Oh, never mind, the girl said, wisps of her hair now loose and falling into her eyes as she gathered her

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What people think about Nine, Ten

17 ratings / 10 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    I read this book quickly because I couldn’t put it down. 9/11 happened when I was in high school, so I had clear memories of “before” and “after”. This book helped me realize how younger kids see the tragedy. It also helps them understand “before” and “after” - Baskin starts the book on September 9th, and introduces us to four different kids and what their daily lives are like. We experience the tragedy with them, and then check back in a year later. It’s a very moving book, and I think it is especially important to help younger children understand what changed because of that day.
  • (5/5)
    Will, Sergio, Aimee, and Naheed live in different parts of the United States, but their lives intersect at an airport on September 9th. They're all at the same airport, but each is caught up in their own worlds. Then we follow along through their daily lives on September 9th and 10th. Learning about their struggles and the things they’re worried about makes the reader care about each character. Will lives in Pennsylvania and has spent the last year trying to live without his dad, who died in a car accident. Sergio is angry at his absentee father, and the streets of New York City help him blend in when he decides to ditch school. Moving to California is hard on Aimee, who is upset that her mom is away in New York City on business and not there for her on her first day at a new school. Naheed has just started middle school in Ohio and, for the first time in her life, is feeling self conscious about the head scarf she wears as part of her faith. When the events of September 11th begin to unfold, each experiences what happens in a big way. How will their lives be impacted?

    Nine, Ten: A September 11th Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin is a book that tells the story of September 11th in a way that middle grade children can understand. You get to see the evens through the eyes of the four kids, and it’s told as tastefully as possible, while still giving the facts. I like how this book brought to light the historical events of September 11th because anyone who is 17 or younger has no memory of the events on that day. All of the kids seemed realistic to me and I liked getting to know each of them. Learning about the days leading up to the tragedy was a unique way to understand more about the events of September 11th. I would recommend this to kids and adults from fourth grade and up. I especially recommend it for parents and kids to read this one together and have some important discussions. I’ve read other books by Nora Raleigh Baskin and enjoyed them, and I look forward to reading more of her books.
  • (5/5)
    Some Folks remember where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed, more, when John F. Kennedy was shot and many more, when America was attacked on September11, 2001. That was 15 years ago and a whole new generation wasn't present when any of this happened. Nora Baskin Raleigh has written a book this generation can relate to. She begins by describing the kind of world children were accustomed to living in only two days before the planes crashed into the towers.

    The story follows the everyday lives of four families living their lives while not always perfect, but content. We are looking at the viewpoints of middle school students in different parts of the United States. One character named Will is from Pennsylvania and another character, Nadira, is a Muslim girl (born in the US) from Ohio. There is also Sergio from Brooklyn and Aimee who just moved to Los Angeles; however, Aimee’s mother is away on business in New York City. NINE, TEN gives the reader a taste of each character’s life before the planes hit. As expected, each middle schooler has their own problems and concerns at that particular point in their life --- worries about their love interests, their future, their parents’ relationship and even being bullied. It is a clear example of how no one saw the events of September 11th coming nor did they realize just how everything would change completely from that point on.

    To me this is a new take on the tragedy that caused a change in the entirely new environment we live in today.
    As the reader follows along the events of that fateful day for each student, they will feel so much anxiety for characters like Aimee, whose mom is on her way to a meeting in the World Trade Center; or Sergio, who worries about his new firefighter friend, Gideon; or Will, as he skips school that day; and finally Nadira, who wears her hijab every day to school. The drama builds and it is not until about the last third of the book before the terrorist attack begins. Initially people thought it a tragic accident until a few minutes later it happened again and America knew we were being attacked.

    After the attacks, the book flashes forward to Patriot Day at Ground Zero, exactly one year later. Here the reader is re-introduced to each character. The reader is reunited with the concerns each character had in the days leading up to the events of 9/11. Their problems have diminished or disappeared altogether as each character’s thoughts are about Ground Zero.

    I feel children who are unfamiliar with the tragedy will want to know more about what happened that day and how it drastically changed the environment we live in today.
  • (3/5)
    The days leading up to and including 9/11 are experienced through four characters: Aimee the new girl in CA, Sergio the math whiz in New York, Muslim American Naheed in Ohio, and Will in Pittsburgh, grieving his father's accidental death. Each child has something going on in their life at the time, from missing a parent to making amends with an outcast classmate. 9/11 throws a shadow over it all and nothing matters more than to be home. Young readers will feel the emotional impact of what happened that day; the book focuses more on those who bore witness and less on the terrorists or victims. No one close to the main characters dies although savvier readers will note the close calls.
  • (4/5)
    The main characters are these four kids from different parts of the U.S. but are somehow tied to the events that took place on 9/11. The book itself is a short read; chapters are from the perspectives of the different characters with the time and date slowly moving forward to that fateful day. Each kid is absorbed with their own lives; Will is dealing with the death of his father, Aimee is starting a new school and nervous that her parents are getting a divorce, Sergio is a math whiz with an absentee father and Naheed gets funny looks for wearing her hijab to school. As the book progresses and the date draws closer, you see just how their lives are going to be affected. I was the same age as these kids when September 11th happened and I can still tell you every detail of that day over 17 years ago. I had expected to not like this book because those memories are still fresh in my mind, but I found myself enjoying it. It's so interesting to read each character's story and see how wrapped up they are in their own lives yet they still have some connection to the events. This book could have easily been a depressing, ham-fisted story about an American tragedy and its aftermath (like the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq) but thankfully it's not. I would recommend this for readers fourth grade and above because students in grades below that might have a tough time understanding it. It should definitely be a book read and taught in schools. I'm beginning to realize that students are now too young to remember 9/11 or weren't born yet and since they are technically living in it's aftermath, they should know what happened.
  • (3/5)
    Four young people's stories are told, all middle school age students. There is a girl who has just moved to Los Angeles for her mother's big job, a boy in Pennsylvania who recently lost his father in a traffic accident, a Muslim girl in Ohio who is tired of being seen as "different," and a boy in New York City whose father abandoned him to his grandmother's care.The blurb in the dust jacket promises, "These four don't know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in ways they never could have imagined." I have always loved books that do this... tell seemingly unrelated stories and then tie them all together into one tale. Well - this isn't one of those and the line in the blurb is false advertising. (Publisher's fault, not the author's.) But in fact, other than all learning about the September 11 terrorist attacks in their own towns in their own way, they never have anything to do with one another. In the final chapter, one year later, they are all present at Ground Zero ceremonies and witness something there, but they never meet or interact with one another. This was a let down after the enticing suggestion in the dust jacket blurb.Each of the four main characters has their own interesting story. Simple, realistic, stories about believable kids who are about 13 years old, give or take. Each is affected differently by the terrorist attacks. Each individual story is decent middle-school level material, though not spectacular. But the book could just as easily have been written as four separate little novellas. I am well above the target audience age. I remember 9/11 well, and always will. I expected to be deeply affected emotionally as the events of the story unfolded, but I wasn't particularly. I cry easily when I read, but didn't shed a tear as I read this book. The horror of September 11 seemed to be kept at a safe distance in a way. None of the characters suffered a personal loss, even though two of them seemed to be setting up just that.Not a bad book... but one that fell well short of my expectations going into it.