I remember exactly where I was when the planes hit the twin towers. Dave was at work. I was home, sitting in the living room of our apartment, surrounded by boxes, with moving day only a month away. Our family was getting ready to move to New York. At the time I was a stay at home mom, taking pleasure in a one-year old Parker’s attention being on his toys long enough for me to escape Barney and watch The Today Show.
I was watching the live broadcast of the report of a plane hitting the first tower and saw the second plane hit. In the confusion, I still didn’t understand that it was a terrorist attack. I called Dave. I called my mom to see if she was watching. We stayed on the phone and watched together as the horror unfolded and the true nature of what was occurring began to dawn on us. I called Dave again.
The world changed that day; American soil had, up to that point, been fairly isolated from the terrorism that other countries had been so used to living with. Like most Americans, I have never forgotten where I was or what I was doing the moment the attacks occurred. The events of September 11, 2001 were forever seared into my memory.
The days that followed had many of my friends and family asking if we were still sure we wanted to move to New York. Living in Idaho, none of them had been there and could not picture that the quaint village we planned to move to – Dave’s hometown – was far from the city.
In the past ten years, the memories have faded for everyone. Our anger at the attacks has been diluted by our anger at a war that lasted too long and has killed and injured far too many of our loved ones serving in the military. Our patriotism has been tested by the deep divide our country has faced politically.
One thing is certain: whether you’re an Obama Mama or a Tea Party Queen, our country has stopped remembering what happened. We have stopped remembering the strength and resolve our country showed at that time, pulling together with more patriotism than had been seen in a long time.
When 9/11 happened, Parker was a year old and Anika was not yet born. As a parent, how do we go about helping our kids understand what happened and what an impact it had on the country? Is it even important to tell them about it? I may not have been able to answer that question had it not been for a family vacation our family took to New York City last spring.
We’re only a four hour drive from the city, and it is somewhere we enjoy going. We live in a small town and find it exhilarating getting to the “big city.” When we go, we stay in Jersey City and go across on the subway. The first stop on the New York side of the train is the WTC station, which drops you right at Ground Zero. For the first time, we got off at the stop. We wandered the area around ground zero, peeking through the fenced off area full of cranes and construction equipment. Across the street, there is a small memorial center.
Without knowing what to expect, we walked into the memorial center last spring and to tell you the truth, there is no way I can even attempt to describe the emotion of that moment. I was not the only one in the crowded room reduced to tears. Along the wall was a photographic timeline of the events of 9/11. At the back of the small room a film was playing about the events of that day. Anyone who visited was invited to go into a small recording area and share their memories of where they were and what they were doing that day.
All around us, there were other families and other people walking through the memorial center. Many were gathered around a glass covered display in the center of the room that shows what the WTC memorial will look like when it’s completed. Dave and I held hands and supported each other as we took in the experience. We talked to the kids about 9/11 and tried to help them understand what had happened, how it had changed our world. We experienced the same frustration, I imagine, that generations before us had experienced in trying to get people to understand the impact and aftermath of Pearl Harbor.
Yet our kids did gain understanding. They did learn. They do have a sense of their place in the world. As they grow up, they will understand why their parents are so enamored with the idea of world peace and fostering understanding among all cultures. They even seem a little more tolerant when their mom rants on about the Muslims not being the only ones waging a holy war.
Visiting the memorial put it into perspective for me. We may never be able to make our children understand the impact that day had on us, but we can raise our kids to be more tolerant and understanding, to reach out without judging, to seek peace and understanding rather than violent solutions to problems. We can honor the victims of 9/11 as well as all of the brave men and women who have served in our military since that time by fostering peace and understanding in our homes, communities and world.