9/11 is Never an Easy Thing to Talk About with Kids, But It’s a Necessary One
It's been a year or two since I visited the 9/11 exhibit inside the New York State Museum. The last time I went there and took in the somber yet mesmerizing artifacts of the most significant event in my adult life, I was with my son Brody who was 4-years-old at the time. He's 6 now.
Here's an excerpt of what I wrote back then:
While Brody and I walked through the NYS Museum, he sensed that I was somewhat somber while taking in the 9/11 exhibit. Trying my best to explain to him what we were looking at, I told him that 'mean people flew airplanes into big tall strong buildings' and even showed him a few of the burning buildings...I told him that many brave men and women, firefighters, police, EMT's and all the kinds of people that protect us at their jobs got really hurt that day.
He couldn't comprehend why or how something like that could happen. "Why did mean people fly airplanes into those tall buildings, Daddy?" Brody innocently asked.
For a brief moment, I wondered if this was just too much for a little boy to experience and that I erred in my decision to show it to him. But I wanted to answer his question. I'm the one that brought him here and this is what dad's do. The best I could come up with was, "Brody, mean people were trying to hurt us because they don't like us and they don't like our American flag."
The reality is, there is no way to explain 9/11 and why it happened to an adult, let alone a child.
On the ride home, Brody was his usual chatty self. "Daddy look!" he shouted as he pointed to the side of the road. "There's an American Flag! The bad guys didn't get that one!"
Looking back and smiling at my clever, smart, compassionate, feisty, sharp, little man I said, "No, they didn't buddy...no they didn't."
Saturday morning, September 11, 2021, will mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Hard to believe it's been two whole decades.
I don't think there's ever a bad time to reflect back on that day and think about the brave heroes who risked their lives trying to save others. Or the thousands of innocent people who lost their lives on that fateful day that started off so "normal" as all days like this do.
Most of us will never forget where we were that day and what we were doing when we heard the news. Conversely, if you're 19-years-old, you didn't live it.
And as uncomfortable as it might be, it's important to teach, educate, and discuss 9/11 with our children so they know what it was like. Your perspective and your insight matters.
How much you share with your children is up to you - but anything is better than nothing in my opinion.
If you can't make it to the NYS Museum to see or feel the exhibit in person, a virtual tour will be broadcast on Facebook live on Saturday morning at 9 am. Here's how they describe it:
"Join the Museum’s senior historian and curator of the World Trade Center Collections, Aaron Noble, for a gallery tour of World Trade Center: Rescue, Recovery, Response as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Learn about the development of the Museum’s World Trade Center Collection and creating exhibitions about this seminal moment in American history."
It might be worth setting a reminder for Saturday morning so that you can watch this presentation by the NYS Museum with someone close to you. Watch it with your kids, nieces, nephews, and cousins, and let someone else do the talking.
9/11 is never an easy conversation to have with kids, but it certainly feels like a necessary one.