“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?”
Whenever I hear this song, by country crooner Alan Jackson, it brings me right back to that day – September 11, 2001. It reminds me of the fear, the tears, the heartbreak and the feeling of helplessness we all felt on that beautiful morning.
My children were so little back then. On that particular Tuesday morning, 10 years ago, Sophia and I were in a parent/child class at Temple Beth Tikvah Nursery School. Ana was home for the morning relaxing with Gramma Kyrcz before afternoon kindergarten. I knew we were safe and out of harm’s way; as was my husband, Bob, in his Guilford office.
I never had to explain to Ana why kindergarten was cancelled that day. I never had to explain why their normally bubbly Mommy was sad. They were too little to comprehend back then. Now they have questions, lots of questions. Celebrating the 10th anniversary this past weekend the events of 9/11 came back like they were happening all over again.
How did you handle the coverage? Did you let your children watch the TV, read about it on the internet, peruse the newspaper whose headline brought the attention to the surface? How old do you children need to be to really understand the events of 9/11?
My children are at the age of wonder. They want to know and they ask lots of questions. Sophia is my inquisitive one. She asked most of the questions. I must say I was guarded in responding to her myriad of questions.
She was sad to hear the children, at Ground Zero, read off their relatives’ name, some of them mothers and fathers. She was horrified to watch replays of the collapsing towers. And when she asked who would do such a horrific act and I answered, “Osama Bin Laden was behind it,” and she responded, “That’s that huge thing!”
She remembers the “jubilation” sweeping the country upon hearing of the death of bin Laden, but at the time had not idea of why everyone was so happy. It was all starting to make sense.
I did not know how much detail she needed. I really did not know how much detail I wanted to talk about. It is still such a deep wound for everyone in this country
It is not only parents who are grappling with how to teach our children about 9/11. Educators are finding it difficult as well.
Sunday’s New York Times had an article entitled, “The Lessons.” The article stated that an analysis of a sampling of current American high school textbooks shows “while they use dramatic labels…to describe the attacks, they provided little information about what actually happened. Most of the textbooks did not even say how many people were killed or who was responsible for the attacks.”
Our children will learn about it in due time. The wounds may still be too raw to make concrete decisions about how to remember this important event in our country’s history. Until then, it is up to us parents to gently teach our children what happened, why it happened and what repercussions it had on us and our entire nation.