Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11: What will our kids know?

13 years ago.  It feels like a lifetime ago, but also like it was just yesterday morning. 

It's fresh on my mind today obviously because it's the anniversary, but also because of a conversation a coworker and I were having yesterday.  The conversation topic was, what will our kids know?  How will they feel about it?  And what do we tell them?

I'm assuming it will just be a historical lesson to them, and that's hard to imagine.  It's hard to imagine the day when they come home with questions, and just hard to imagine that for another generation it will simply be something they learn about in school....kind of like when the Challenger exploded or JFK's assassination for my generation. Events that we are well aware of the historical significance of, but ones that we don't fully grasp aside from what we learn in school and what our parents tell us about their experience that day. I'm assuming that's what 9/11 will be like for our children.

And how DO you go about explaining such a day to them?  How do you tell them that you woke up on that beautiful day like it was any other day, only to have the rest of the morning and night continue in slow motion as you tried to process what had happened?  How can you tell them that you and your roommate had a sleepover in her tiny double bed that night because you were both too scared to sleep alone? Will they ever be able to process how things got to that point that day?  Will they wake up every year on the anniversary with a tightening in their chest, hoping that there isn't a repeat?  I hope not...for their sake, I hope not.

Maybe you start from the beginning....about how I woke up and started to get ready for my 10am I sat down to eat a bowl of cereal in our living room apartment, flipped the TV on to Regis and Kelly literally just in time to watch the 2nd plane hit the towers.  How the only thought that went through my head was "wow, that was weird", assuming that it was just a freak accident, that it was a flight problem...never thinking it was a terror problem.  Blissfully unaware about what was about to unfold that day.  Going to class, sitting through a full class before Pitt closed for the day, as it finally came out what was going on.  Frantically trying to get a hold of family, my friends, anyone....but not having any luck as all of the cell phone lines were jammed.

I remember walking back to my apartment, alone, just hoping that like me, no one else knew what to do so they would head there.  And they had, my 2 other roommates were already there, glued to the TV.  Which is where we sat all day.  And all night..until finally someone, I don't even remember who, made an executive decision that we needed to turn the TV off. 

Is that what's best for them?  To know it all, so they realize the gravity of the situation that day? Because it seems like that's what happens when the topic of 9/11 comes up....people inevitably discuss where they were and what they were doing. Of course, I hope they will learn the historical significance as well, and that they will learn to honor those who lost their lives that day.  So do they need to know where I was?  Is that really an importance piece to understanding the day, or is it just what naturally comes up in conversation?  Does it really matter how the day affected me?  Not at all, in the grand scheme of it is even worth telling them if they ask? 

I think that I've asked more questions in this post than actual statements....but I think that's because 9/11 is still full of questions for so many people.  For my kids, when the time comes...I will tell them where I was if they ask.  But my portion of the story is such a small, insignificant slice of that day, that I hope instead they want to know more about what mattered that day.  About how we can never forget, and how we need to continue to honor both the victims and the heroes of the day.  And I'll talk to them about the lesson Mr. Rogers taught us all about times of tragedy:

image courtesy of

Hopefully they will understand the heroes of the day, and will understand enough about the day to realize why we can't forget. 

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