9/11 is a day few people can forget. Just seeing a picture, a video clip, or hearing about the memorials this morning brings it all back to me. You didn’t even have to be near the crash site or know someone who died to be affected by this horrific tragedy. Every year, I imagine the families who lost loved ones, people who witnessed the events first-hand, and any child hearing about the news that day.
In September of 2001, I had one toddler and one child on the way. Now, I have three girls in elementary school. My oldest wasn’t even big enough to have memories of that time. Yet she and her soon-to-be born sister were in my mind all day long that fateful day. Because I was a young mom, I interpreted the tragedy and the felt the fear by how it could affect my family. What if there are more attacks today? How will I keep my daughter safe? What else will happen by the time my baby is born in a few months? Is my family really safe anymore? I began to wonder about my brother-in-law who was in the Army at the time. Would he be put in danger? How is my sister feeling right now about that?
It wasn’t just about me and my feelings. My husband and I had a responsibility to protect our young daughter and unborn child. And let me tell you, I had not felt so completely helpless as a parent before. I had never considered that I would be in such unpredictable danger in my own backyard. I could put up child safety gates, baby proof the outlets, and feed my daughter vegetables every day. But I couldn’t do a damn thing about our country’s safety. This rattled me in a way I have not yet tried to explain, until now.
It has been a long time since those events happened. Each year, my girls have become more and more capable of understanding the world around them. And every year, the discussion about what happened on 9/11 gets more challenging. I try to explain what happened, who we learned was behind it, why it happened, how it compares to World War II, and about people being heroes. I don’t look forward to my daughters’ questions because I’m often not certain what the answers are myself. It’s a heavy topic for a quick before-school conversation over breakfast, condensed and edited for nine, seven, and five-year-old brains to absorb.
Parents everywhere are having these conversations today. They are talking to their kids who weren’t even born when the events happened. These youngsters don’t have their own experience to refer to, just what they hear from their parents and other people. I want my kids to understand the impact of everything that happened that day, but I want to protect them from the feelings of fear that I and millions of people experienced. Is that even realistic? Probably not.
Someday, they will see the raw video clips, the pictures, the computer simulations, and the personal stories of people who were directly affected that day. They will come to their own historical understanding of it all and their tender hearts will hurt over it. My only hope is that they never have to personally experience that kind of fear in their lifetime.
God Bless America