I remember where I was. My guess is that you do, too. I was in high school and was feeling uneasy and scared. I was worried about my siblings who didn't live at home anymore. My sister had just left for her freshman year of college and my brother was teaching at his high school. I remember wondering what my soon-to-be soldier boyfriend, now husband, was doing. Surely, our military had been activated. Someone came to the door and asked the teacher to turn on the TV. My thoughts ran on.
The Internal Monologue
"Oh, have mercy. Did that person really just jump from eighty stories up? No. Where are you, God? Keep watching. Don't look away. How did this happen? The Twin Towers have been there for years. What do you mean a plane flew into them? How could a pilot be so foolish? Oh no! There is another plane. No! It can't happen again! Two planes? Really? The Pentagon? A plane crashed into the Pentagon? Isn't that where they make plans to keep Americans safe? What is going on? First NYC and now, Washington D.C.? This doesn't feel good at all. How many more planes aren't going where they are supposed to? How are we supposed to do school work when all we want to do is see what is going to happen next? It's like a train wreck. We can't look away."
"Pittsburgh. No, not Pittsburgh. My friend begins to cry because her brother lives in Pittsburgh. Oh wait. It's a field near Pittsburgh. Another plane crashed. Dear God, no! Make the horror stop. People are dying and are so afraid. Wait. What is happening? It's falling. The whole thing is falling. It's so dusty. What about the people in the streets? They don't understand what is happening. RUN! Run faster! Wait a minute. There is no way this happened by accident. That means that someone did this on purpose. No. It can't be. We're safe here in the United States. We live in the greatest country known to man. How could something so big slip through our fingers?"
The day went on
"Oh no! It's happening again. The other tower is collapsing like a little tower that I build with blocks as a child. It just crumbled. God, what is happening? Fear begins to set in again. These people are trying to kill us. Pennsylvania isn't too far from New York City. What if they come here next? Should I go home? Should I stay at school? I really wish I could talk to my sister right now. I wish I knew that my family is ok. What about all of those people who died and are dying?"
New York City is a cloud of smoke. Dust everywhere.
Reflection and Thoughts
Teaching our kids about 9/11
When I think back on the thoughts that ran through my head on 9/11, I was thinking as a teenager. Now, sixteen years, a husband, and four kids later, I am thinking as an adult, wife, and parent. Though my perspective has somewhat changed, my memories of the horror of that day have not. Only now, I have to explain those events to my children. Because they are young, they didn't have to live through those events. They get the privilege of hearing the watered down version that I would've preferred. Explaining terrorist attacks in a way that young children can comprehend is not an easy feat. Kids can barely understand why Tommy punched Christopher on the playground at recess let alone the heinous act of brutally taking another's life.
I did my best though. We sat down with the computer and looked at pictures of the New York City skyline as it was before 9/11. I showed them the pictures of the planes before they hit and pictures of the city after. Feeling unprepared, I tried to weed through anything that I thought was too scary for their tender eyes. I told them that sometimes people make really bad decisions and it can really hurt others. I told them that there are bad people in the world who's only goal is to kill and take the lives of innocent people. The whole time I was explaining, I was hoping that I was using the right words and giving them honest answers to their questions without political bias. I did the best I could.
A Visit to NYC
Because we live in PA and NYC is really only a short car ride away, we decided that we would take our kids on a field trip for our daughter's eighth birthday. First stop: Ground Zero. As we walked around the reflection pools (after regaining composure from my aunt dropping her smartphone in said pools and husband jumping over to save it and almost getting arrested for doing so) and showed the children pictures of that day fifteen years before, I became inspired by our great nation all over again. No. We didn't leave that hole in the ground. We cleaned, re-focused, and rebuilt and, most importantly, we rose above the turmoil dealt us.
Friends, if you have the chance, please go. Take a family vacation or a field trip and visit New York City. Spend time going through the museum and walking around the memorial. Take the kids to the place that screams of patriotism and resilience. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum has a super helpful website that will help you talk to your children about terrorism and the events that plagued this day. If you are a teacher, be sure to check out their helpful lesson plans for students of all ages. Don't miss out on the teachable moments that we can share with future generations. This will make them smarter humans. Better humans. Stronger humans.