It’s an interesting thing — national tragedies. Like you, I can tell you exactly where I was eleven years ago today. I remember the news. Watching the towers fall. Hearing about the Pentagon. Pennsylvania.
I remember the emotions. The confusion. Horror. Sadness. Fear. It still feels so fresh and so raw, even today. In so many respects, it feels like it was just yesterday.
But it wasn’t yesterday. It was eleven years ago. And a lot has happened in eleven years. Some due to the events of that day and others because life just goes on. For us, we married, moved (3 times), changed jobs, and, probably the biggest change of all, had three kids. Which begs the question, how do you explain the tragedy of 9/11 to kids who weren’t even born yet?
My kids, especially my oldest, is getting to the age where they notice the world around them. Whether it is something I bring up or not. So she hears about this 9/11 thing and wants to know what it’s all about. Why is it important? What does it mean ‘we remember’? Those shafts of lights? The lowered flags?
How do you explain to your children? One day bad men decided to do a bad thing. Why? Because they don’t like America. Because they don’t like Americans. So they just killed them? Yes. But I’m an American. Do they want to kill me? Umm…yes. Unfortunately, yes.
That’s the sad truth, isn’t it? The men that hijacked those planes, they didn’t discriminate. They didn’t stop to think that there might be kids in those buildings. On those planes. They didn’t stop to think that the people who were on the plane or in those buildings had families, were parents, were someone’s kid. Or maybe they just didn’t care.
I feel like it’s a lot like our grandparents or parents trying to explain the impact of Pearl Harbor or JFK’s assassination. You just can’t. You can give the facts. The stories. Talk about the aftermath. The people responsible. The heroes. The victims. But you just can’t make them feel what you felt.
It will become a date on a calendar that is “remembered” and talked about in history books. But they won’t know the emotional impact until they experience the tragedy of their generation.
So, I’m truly curious, how do you (or will you) explain the events and significance of 9/11 to your children?