Anyone school-age and above has probably learned what 9/11 means in our country. It may not invoke the same feelings for the younger kids, but they are learning about it in school. But for our family this day holds so much more emotion and meaning than for most. We lost someone that day too.
This morning as we went through our calendar time and notebooks, I asked my 7 yr old son if he knew what today was. He said, “Sure. It’s September 11, 2012.” I asked him if he knew what happened on this day 11 years ago. Questioningly he said no. So I began telling him what happened.
“It was 11 years ago that terrorists (I explained that term) hijacked (again, I explained) two planes and flew them into the Twin Towers in New York City. They were the 2 tallest buildings in the United States at the time. After the planes flew into them, they eventually fell and nearly 3,000 people died that day.”
At this point, it all seemed a bit overwhelming and shocking to him, much like it was to me 11 years ago. My head was reeling with confusion, chaos and questions as so many questions were unanswered. I felt it best not to tell him that two other planes were hijacked and those people died too. So, I moved on.
“Your dad and I were at college and in classes when it all happened. It was a Tuesday, so we had chapel. Most students, including me, had not heard anything about the attacks yet, so we continued to file in to the chapel with not a care in the world. Laughing with our friends and talking about life. They began service with someone talking (I can’t remember who), which was not typical. We normally started with singing and then on to a sermon. But, this day was different. I could tell right away. The mood quickly changed in the room and everyone was sober as they told us what had unfolded that morning. We sat in disbelief while we watched LIVE news footage on the projector screen. We then sat and prayed for the casualties that we knew about and those that would likely come. We prayed for New York City and we prayed for our President and the leaders of our country. I had to leave before chapel was over though, because I worked in the cafeteria and had to go get things set-up for lunch. I walked down the hill and steps to the cafeteria in complete shock. I had no words – just disbelief. And the feeling that we were now totally vulnerable – again.” (I was in high school when the OKC bombing occurred and remember it vividly, especially since we live in OK and only hours from OKC.)
I then asked him if he knew what else today was. Again, he responded with no. I told him that this was the same day his daddy called home about the morning attacks only to find out that his one and only niece (at the time) had died earlier that morning. She died from a brain aneurysm, which I explained was something that caused the brain to quit working. I didn’t figure he would understand a blood clot and honestly I wasn’t prepared to answer all the questions about it. So I went with simple. I continued, “So our family not only remembers the towers that fell, we also remember your cousin, Chyanna.”
He’s heard us talk about her many times before and my mother-in-law keeps pictures of her around, but until this year I didn’t feel he could grasp everything surrounding her death. So we talked about it.
“She would be 13 now, right?” he asked. I said, “Yes. Her birthday was in October, when she would have turned 3.”
He sat and contemplated that for a minute. And then said, “But she’s in heaven now, right?” I answered, “Yes.”
“Maybe she knows Papa D?” And with that I nearly lost it. His childhood innocence gone – at least in part. I mean, how does a Mom recover from that? Oh to have such sweet, innocent faith of a child.
Not only is today a day of rememberance for our family, it’s also a day of celebration. My husband’s 2nd oldest brother’s birthday is today. I know what you’re thinking…”Oh how awful.” Well, yes and no. This particular brother, we call him JB for short, is mentally handicapped. So, as my husband said years ago, at least he doesn’t really remember everything surrounding that day. He can still enjoy his birthday without the pain of remembering everything. And that is so true. It’s not that JB doesn’t remember, he definitely does. But I don’t think he recalls it all happened on his birthday. So it gives us a way to celebrate and not be so sad.
So, that is what I will tell my kids about September 11th, 2001. Not only will we remember those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks, we will remember Chyanna and thank God she is with him. And then we will celebrate JB’s life and thank God that he is still with us.
What do you teach your kids about the 9/11 attacks?