I was aware that Baxter didn’t know about September 11th, 2001. It had occurred to me that at some point he would find out, or I’d need to tell him, but that day hadn’t arrived quite yet.
What I realized today is that the telling of what happened on that day is not only exceedingly difficult to speak aloud without crying, but is a process that needs to unfold slowly with our children, the ones who weren’t around yet on that date or who were just 10-month old babies nursing in our arms when we switched on the news that morning.
Baxter heard about the Twin Towers for the first time at school today and learned that they are gone because a plane crashed into them. Just hearing those words coming from him left me choked up. But then I discovered that he didn’t know it wasn’t an accident.
Because how could something like that not be an accident, you know? In the eyes of a child? How can we apply the words “on purpose” to an event such as that? Does that not shift the balance of good and evil in that child’s mind for good?
I did that today as we drove from school to an appointment together. I had to say “it was done on purpose” and when he asked why, I needed to tell him it was done by people who were very, very angry with our country and felt that killing others – and themselves – was the only way to get what they wanted. I explained in general terms that this is why someone has deemed it necessary that we take off our shoes and put our chap stick and asthma inhalers in quart-size baggies at the airport, shuffling his Webkinz and Harry Potter books through an x-ray machine when we want to visit his grandparents.
I pulled out the horrifying word terrorist and handed it to him, fingers dangling it far as far from my body as possible so as not to see it or smell it.
I don’t want that word to be in his mind, because, well, I guess maybe if I’m honest I feel that if it’s part of my young child’s world view then it really exists. Once our young innocents know about Osama bin Laden and the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and the other flights? Well, it’s a whole hell of a lot more real.
Nothing even close to the full story came out today, but I answered his questions as honestly as I could without scaring him more than I had to. I can see this is a topic that we’ll be coming back to many times over the years as our children try to wrap their minds around the horror of it and what it meant.
As will the rest of us.