This was the heaviest “why” my daughter who asks “why” 18 million times a day has ever uttered. She sees all the people gathered at Ground Zero crying, holding flowers, and signs with photos of their loved ones. “Why are they crying, Mommy?”
They show the giant fountains where the Twin Towers once stood. “What are those for Mommy? And WOW, those are deep!”
They show people rubbing the names off the monument and she asks, “Why are they doing that, Mommy?”
I am left with an immeasurable lack of words for my four-year old daughter who is old enough to know about death and pain to a certain extent. She also knows that these images she is seeing are not “fun.” However, she isn’t old enough and I don’t know “how” to explain that day to her.
I turn the channel before she can see any images from that day. Those images are not something you can ever explain to anyone, let alone a four-year old. It is like trying to explain the Internet to a 70 year old or a record player to a child born in the last decade…there is no comprehension.
If you would have explained it to me on September 10, 2001, I personally would have given a puzzled look and wouldn’t be able to wrap my mind around a plane crashing into a building and bursting into flames, followed by another plane crashing into the identical building next to it not long after. Then, the thought that in another part of the country, yet another plane was crashing into the Pentagon and another plane crashed into a field. Then coming to the realization that all of these planes, regardless of where they crashed, had one purpose in mind…to destroy the United States. Regardless of whether they chose buildings with the largest number of people or a building that held great symbolism, the message was clear; Whoever or whatever was responsible was filled with hate for all that our country represents.
To think that all along we felt “safe” here, and to suddenly have that “safety” taken away. To know that we would all walk around looking over our shoulders wondering "What next?" We would now realize that the notion of "anything is possible" meant something completely different than what we had been taught up until that point. Because being an American always meant that we could do ANYTHING. The American Dream meant if you put your blood, sweat and tears into something, you would succeed. This was the land of opportunity and then they took that away.
There is certainly a pre 9/11 part of our lives and a post 9/11 part of our lives. We could never travel the same; the security measures in place were a constant reminder. We could never go to work the same; we’d have to go through a metal detector just to enter our own office building. We would never look at the most notable skyline the same; part of it would be missing. We’d wonder what else they could have gotten away with that day? Where exactly was that fourth plane headed? What other landscape could have been destroyed? How many other lives could have been taken?
And ten years later, watching the ceremonies commemorating the events of 9/11, why does it seem to hurt more now? While the pain and the fear are still there, from it grows a different kind of “National confidence.” We used to walk tall knowing we lived in the country that afforded us the most freedom, the most opportunity and the most success. Now we’ve been taken down a few notches and humbled. But now we’ve seen our Nation take steps to fight for that again, take back some of what was lost and most importantly realize that we are not defeated, but stronger for knowing we should never take anything for granted…EVER again.
I look at my children and I don’t even want to begin to explain that day to them. I don’t want to think about our family if something like that were ever to impact us directly. I don’t want to explain that kind of evil and the kind of pain it caused. It is certainly one answer I don’t have for my children. It isn’t something I can look up on the internet like why are the moon and sun out at the same time sometimes? No, this is an answer I don’t think any of us can answer. I hope that some day the history books can begin to explain all the events that as a parent not only do I not want to, but that I just can't. I dread the day my kids come home from school seeking answers.
Here’s a clip of my favorite commercial commemorating 9/11. To me, it encompasses the optimism that comes out of such a hardship on a nation. After watching this, Maddie simply said she wanted to sing at the Fire Station without know the significance. I am so jealous of her innocence and if I could bottle it, I would give it to all the people who lost loved ones that day.