Today is September 11th. It’s Haley’s birthday, and Angela’s birthday, and Ludacris’ birthday.
8:46- a moment of silence. My kids don’t know why we’re having it. I tell them to be silent and we will talk about it when we’re done. After it’s over, I finish my sentence about math, and then we talk about it.
I tell them that I get to talk first, and then I’ll answer questions. I think about how I am going to tell them about what happened. How am I going to explain terrorism? How am I going to explain badness to a group of children who don’t understand being mean?
As with everything, I try to be transparent. I start by explaining that even though I have two college degrees and I am 30 years old, I still don’t understand what happened, but I’ll do my best to explain to them the parts that I do understand. We talk about when we don’t agree with someone. We have two choices. We don’t play with them, or we set out to hurt them. This group of people, they don’t like America. And they chose the hurt way.
I go over the basics. They took over planes. They crashed them into buildings. They wanted to crash one into the White House, but the people on the plane said no, so they took over and crashed it into a field. We looked at a map. Then, they get to ask questions.
Were people hurt? Yes. A lot of people.
Did people die? Yes. Almost 3000.
How did they take over the plane? I don’t know.
Why did it happen? I don’t know, baby…I don’t know.
Who were the people? They were people from another country. (I hesitated to tell them who, because second graders struggle with black, white, and grey. Good or bad. They are still working on understanding the in between. Aren’t we all?)
I tell them a few brief stories. I tell them it was my first year here, and I remember who was sitting in my classroom when it all happened, and how all of the teachers spent every spare moment in the lounge watching the TV. I mention that I had a friend that was studying at a college just down the road from the towers, and how I kept emailing back and forth with him as much as I could. I leave out the part that we were supposed to be married, and if we had been, I would have been on the island when the planes hit, probably teaching at a school a few blocks down from the towers. I also leave out the part that my mother’s business trip was moved up a day, and she was in an airplane when the attacks happened, and she got stuck in St. Louis, and she couldn’t figure out how to get home, and when I talked to her it was the most upset I’ve ever heard her.
If you want to really get the gravity of this situation, try explaining it to seven-year-olds. You get the gravity of it yourself.