Do you remember where you were on 9/11? I do not remember how I became aware of the horror or who I spoke with when I saw the first plane crash into the tower. I can not tell you what was going on around me with any certainty. I know I had a five-year old that, throughout the day, I was wondering what he was hearing at school. I remember keeping the television on mute or low volume in order to not alert my youngest child to what I was seeing and hearing. I know that I spoke with a number of friends and family while it was going on. But, to this day, I do not have any clarity of what exactly was happening around me. It all seems much of a blur.
Keep in mind that I am hundreds of miles from the Towers, the Pentagon, and the field where the last plane crashed. I did not know anyone who was lost in any of that. I was about as secure as anyone could be on that day. Which, looking back, did not feel very secure at all. It took every bit of restraint I had to not head to my son’s school and pick him up. I knew it wasn’t rational. What I didn’t know was how I was going to explain this to him when he arrived home.
I am an adult and my mind could not comprehend what I was seeing and hearing. When the first plane hit, I thought it had to be an accident. Though, even that, seemed unreal. Then the next plane hit, and I knew it wasn’t an accident. As much as I had hoped it was just a terrible, horrible, accident, I knew it wasn’t. There was someone out there who hated us this much and they were able to get to us on our land.
I knew that my two-year old was not going to understand this, but, my five-year-old? The monsters he thought of were all pretend. I could talk those monsters away. He was certainly aware that not all people were the same, but it wasn’t an issue. His life, up until that point wasn’t necessarily easy, but that had nothing to do with religion, race, or another person’s belief system. He was always a cautious child and he knew of “stranger danger”. Unfortunately, this was beyond comprehension of the adult in his life.
Now, though we did not lose anyone we personally knew, he had friends and acquaintances that did. He knew that death was permanent, having lost his grandma the prior year. I could not fathom how all those families who experienced loss was managing the explanation of any of this, much less explaining it to a child who had also lost to this tragedy. My heart was grieving for all that was going on. This heart had to explain, to a five-year-old, that there were boogie men out there. That because of the hate they allowed in their heart and their lack of tolerance for other’s differences, they caused this horrendous loss of lives. I had to do this all without corrupting his, or my, heart. I had to find understanding.
Understanding is not acceptance. Over the years, as his knowledge grew, and, what our society has come to know, the explanations grew more difficult. We do our best when our children come to us with questions, and even when they don’t. They are now able to check various sources and form their own opinions on the actions of others beyond their parent’s. On this day, in particular, they are well aware of what was lost. That I am sure of. I can only hope that their understanding of that day will only deepen.
I realize I can not have complete understanding. I realize that tolerance is only acceptable to a point. There are some things in life where you can not “turn the other cheek”, as I have been taught. My children have been exposed to much more tolerance and/ or acceptance growing up then my generation or the generation before me. They do know how fortunate they are to be in a country where you are allowed such freedoms. They are proud of the military men who have gone before them to fight for their freedom. However, they also know not to judge another group for the actions of other, more radical members.
I can only hope that they will never become so radical that it is only their beliefs that should carry any weight in this world. That it is the mixture of all that make up the human race and quite an amazing race that is. I wish the bombers would have known that.