UArts grad reflects on deep ties to 9/11

Daźay Burnett is photographed near Ground Zero in the days following the 9/11 attacks.
Photo: Provided

On Friday, Daźay Burnett will be DJing at a show in Philadelphia.

The Manhattan native won’t be commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In fact, his family doesn’t really talk about that day.

“I try not to think about it much,” Burnett, 24, told Metro. “Everyone we know either lost somebody or got sick from it. So it’s really triggering.”

His mother, Elizabeth, an engineer at the time, spent months operating machinery at Ground Zero as part of the rescue and recovery effort. She developed COPD and other lung problems, which the family attributes to the fumes and dust.

When she couldn’t find a babysitter, she brought along Burnett. Doctors later told him that his asthma and poor eyesight could be related to the time he spent near the World Trade Center site.

Burnett was 4 years old on Sept. 11, 2001. He remembers his older sister escorting him out of his preschool class and going to his grandmother’s house. Everyone was glued to the TV.

“I didn’t know what’s going on,” he recalled. “I thought they were watching a movie.”

Elizabeth Burnett developed health problems after assisting in rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site.PHOTO: Provided

Elizabeth Burnett was at work nearby when the planes struck, and she walked toward the World Trade Center to get a closer look. When the towers collapsed, she quickly fled the area on a motorcycle to escape the dust clouds, Daźay Burnett said.

“My mom lost a lot of people that she worked with,” he said. “There’s a lot of survivor’s guilt on her end, so she doesn’t even like to talk about it.”

“For us it’s still definitely a sore spot,” Burnett added. “You try not to acknowledge it, unfortunately.”

Burnett, now 24, studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.PHOTO: Provided.

She spent more than a year assisting in the rescue and clean-up effort, with Daźay sometimes sitting in her truck parked next to the ramp leading to Ground Zero.

Burnett attended the University of the Arts in Center City and graduated without any student debt thanks to the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, which provides financial help to the children of those killed or permanently disabled as a result of 9/11.

The program, which was founded in the days after the attacks, has distributed more than $180 million to about 3,800 students.

Burnett studied music business, entrepreneurship and technology. He has since moved back to New York but often comes to Philadelphia to perform and visit family.

“For me, I’m just trying to move forward and hopefully nothing like that ever happens again,” he said. “I don’t want any future generations to have to witness that and be traumatized their whole life.”

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