My daughters are twelve and fifteen years old. On September 11, 2001, they were too young to understand what was going on. The teen remembers me watching TV and wondering why I was so sad. She was unaware of the scary phone calls of that day, as her father and I worried about him getting out of Washington, DC. They could see the smoke of the Pentagon from their building, and reports were circulating of bombs in embassies near his office.
In the years after, we or they might refer to the day as “when the two towers fell” or some such approximation. They had a basic idea of what had happened then, and certainly over time had picked up the implications of that day. People attacked us, we went to war to bring them down, and that war was not as easy as we thought. They know kids whose parents are or were deployed, as we live in a community with many military families. They watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report with us, and can’t miss the continued discussion of the events that followed.
But the matter-of-fact tone they used about the towers falling has over time made me more uncomfortable that I was shielding them from the worst of that day. It is a part of their history, and more so because it wasn’t about one day but the weeks, the months, the decade that followed.
I know that I’ve brought home a few books before now, and maybe it is the wrong use of Nonfiction Monday that I didn’t find what I needed in their pages. Instead, last night we watched a documentary of that day in New York — which started with blue skies and ended in gray ash. We talked a bit throughout to clarify events. We sat together in constant contact — leaning on each other, holding a hand, wiping a tear.
It wasn’t easy to watch, and at times I doubted myself in my mission to educate. But in the end I felt that I had to bring them to that place, because they could speak of that day with respect, but not with understanding of the emotional content of that day that shaped their decade. However painful, they deserved that much.