On September 11, 2001, my daughters had been in kindergarten for one week. I had just returned home from dropping them at school, when my sister called and told me to turn on the television. Immediately I called the schools to see if I should pick up my daughters (which is what I wanted to do). I felt that we should be together. But I was persuaded not to do this. The professional educators did not want to scare the children, and they promised to help the children understand what was happening in the world.
One of my twins was enrolled at a public K-8 school with a dream principal. She brought all the children in grades 1-8 into the gymnasium for an assembly at which she spoke. She did not feel the kindergartners would be ready for this, so she talked with the kindergarten class separately, with their teacher. I cannot imagine a better person to talk to these children. (She has now retired from the system). My other daughter was enrolled in our local parish school (also K-8), also with a dream principal. She gathered all the grades together and they prayed as a community. I cannot imagine a better person to pray with these children. (Sister Sarah, the principal, left that school, as well).
I believe the schools were right to keep the children that dark day. I would have scared them, surely, had I brought them home. Because I sat in front of the television, crying, trying to understand, worried about my friends, worried about the world, worried about my children, and so angry that we seem destined to live this way.
When my daughters did come home that afternoon, my husband and I tried to answer their questions. Such questions as, “If they saw the building right in front of them, why didn’t they just steer the plane around it?” Five-year-olds, generally, don’t understand suicide or terrorism, and my five-year-olds certainly didn’t understand the magnitude of this event. There was no context for them. I don’t remember if they even knew much about New York City at the time.
Of course now, at age 11 and in 6th grade, they know all about those things. They've got nothin' but context. They’ve spent time in New York City, and they've been hearing bad news in the background of their lives for as long as they can remember. And yet, today, my husband and I still have difficulty answering their questions. Such questions as, “When is this war going to end?”
I still cry, still try to understand. I still worry about my friends, the world, my children, all children. I am still so angry that we seem destined to live this way.
Fatigue has set in, for myself. And, as I suspect, our youth.
Cross-posted at Chicago Moms Blog.