WARNING: THIS POST IS GOING TO BE A HUGE DOWNER. IF YOU ARE HERE FOR THE USUAL LAUGHS, SKIP THIS ONE AND COME BACK MONDAY FOR OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING.
I was in LA on 9/11, but despite the time difference I was awake and watching television for the attacks and saw the towers fall. It was hard to be so far away. Flying back into New York City the following week was both incredibly sad and a huge relief. I was born on the island of Manhattan, and lived downtown for most of my life. In some way, it will always be "home." And in some part of my mind the Twin Towers will always look like this:
My kids, though both were born in Manhattan, are growing up in the suburbs. We moved here almost 2 years ago, and though we are close enough that we can see the city from our town, my boys will not be native New Yorkers. They are coming up on 3 and 5 years old, and for now they are too young, still, to be told about the attacks, too young to have to be aware of the bad things that can and do happen in this world. But today, on the 10th anniversary, I can see in the future a time when I am going to have to explain what happened. Why Mama is crying. Why Daddy is sad. What those pictures on the TV mean. And I want to do it right. It's important to me to do it right. To make sure that when they think about September 11th, 2001, they don't just see the terror. The falling bodies of the jumpers. The ash that coated downtown and the smoke that poured into the sky. The walls and walls of "Have You Seen" posters that were never going to be answered. There's more to know than just that people hated us enough to do this terrible thing. And this is what I would like them to learn, in addition to the terror:
The many, myriad stories of heroism. The people who risked their lives to help complete strangers. The way that Mayor Guiliani, for one shining moment, was the Mayor of America, our fearless leader, coming through in a crisis. How the first responders didn't hesitate to rush into danger to do their jobs. How people lined up at hospitals to give blood that was never going to be needed, because they wanted to do something, anything. The way people volunteered for sandwich duty at Ground Zero. That most of the world, for a while, loved New York as much as I do. I know they will never see the Towers the way I did. I know that those buildings are gone, but I hope that I can teach them to see the Towers like this:
But I don't know how. Any advice is greatly appreciated.