And then she asked about September 11th

8 Sep

I don’t like to talk about it. People share their stories about where they were – what they were doing – how they reacted – how it made them feel – and I think that’s fine. I just would rather not share. If asked, I will. But, if people are in a group and talking about it – I choose to listen. I think, what does it really matter? Where I was? Recently though, I’ve talked about it more than I have in the past 10 years.

The television station I used to work for asked if they could interview me (along with others who were working on that day) to talk about what it was like for us. Because I want to help my old station, I said sure. (Here is that interview.) My memory of my events on that day is blurry but I remember enough to talk a bit about it. It wasn’t until Nia asked me about it that I realized – I’m going to have to talk about this. But not about where I was and what I was doing – actually about it. The heartbreaking tragedies.

It began all because her school called and reminded us to wear red, white and blue for their Patriot Day recognition. She told me, “That’s because planes crashed into the obelisks in Washington D.C.” I asked her where she learned that and she said her teacher told the class about it. Say what you want about Georgia public education but I am sure her teacher did not have that wrong and said New York City. That was the way an 8-year-old heard what her teacher taught. Her teacher taught about the memorials along with the events – Nia heard what she heard.

I proceeded to tell Nia what happened, to make sure she understood. Four planes with many people on them crashed into two very tall buildings in New York City called the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. So many people died, Bean. So many. Here’s what happened during/after my explanation:

Five-year-old Nate was just getting out of the bath – he was chewing gum and was naked. He started blowing a whistle. Nia asked, “Didn’t the pilots see the buildings?”

I had to pause to think about how to tell her. “Well, you see, people who don’t like the United States, people call them terrorists, made the planes crash.”

Nate returns to blow the whistle, naked, after I just shooed him away. “Why didn’t the pilots tell them to go away?”

“Because the other people had things to hurt the pilots and took over.” In that same breath, I tell Nate to get dressed for the third time.

“Did everyone from the U.S. on the plane die?”
“Yes, baby, but there were more than just people from the U.S. on those planes and in those buildings.”

Nate, now getting dressed, chimes in with concern for the first time, “Did daddy die?”
“No, buddy, daddy’s not dead. But many families lost their daddies and mommies and even children in this.”

Nia adds a new thought, “Did the buildings break in half?”
“Kind of, yes. They collapsed.”
“Did they fall on other buildings near them and kill those people too?” Nia asks with more worry in her voice.
“Um, well, I’m not sure about that. There were so many people in those two big buildings, Bean. I don’t know about the nearby buildings.”
“How many?
“Thousands. How many are in your school?”
“Like, 800 or something.”
“Well, it would be almost four of your schools. That’s how many people died in those buildings.”
“Oh. My.”
Nate brings us back to kid speak, “What state were the buildings?”
“New York.”
“Spiderman lives in New York. Did he die too?”

No. You don’t get to read my response to that. Sigh.

I went from not wanting to talk about it, to really talking about it. Where were you when you told a child about it? I can’t even imagine the children who lost loved ones – or the ones who watched it happen. It’s so very difficult – and it hurts. I will never forget. Because of the loss and sadness – of course – but also because I think I’m going to be clarifying quite a few things with them over the years. I’m so – deeply – sorry.

Ten years on Sunday for many of us. Time has stopped for those who were just going about their daily lives at those places or had to say goodbye. I will remember.

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