It Had to Happen Eventually (the day I talked to my kid about 9/11)

Yesterday morning I woke up to a text from Doug (who leaves before I even crawl out of bed) that Osama bin Laden had been killed. My immediate reaction was “what” followed by “wow”. My second reaction was wondering how I was going to explain this to Megan.

Megan was 8 months old on September 11, 2001. While she slept soundly in her crib each night for the days and weeks following the terrorist attacks, Doug and I watched the news and cried. We cried for the people lost, for the families suffering, for the pain our nation felt. We wondered why this happened, how this happened, what would happen next.

Over the years, we’ve watched the specials and followed the anniversary of that day. But we’ve never involved the kids, because they’ve always been too young. It’s hard enough as adults to understand that happened that day, but to explain such horrors to children just wasn’t something we were prepared to deal with.

However, Megan is 10 now and has a reading teacher who talks to them about current events. Over the course of this school year, we’ve talked about tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and yesterday, September 11th. Knowing this, I asked her if her teacher had talked about “anything special” yesterday, and she mentioned the death of bin Laden. While I tend to shy away from showing her the uglier side of the world because she is so sensitive, I sat down and gave her what I call the “Reader’s Digest” version of September 11th. I pulled up photos of the Twin Towers before that day, and some photos of the planes and the towers burning. I showed her photos of the Pentagon, of the field in Shanksville, and we talked. We talked of the heroes of that day, of the thousands who died. It was emotionally exhausting for me and having to explain to my 10 year old why I was crying was even more difficult. I didn’t personally know anyone that died that day, but that didn’t make it any less difficult for me to bear.

The talk yesterday lead to more quick trips through history~World War II (she asked about Pearl Harbor), Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hitler. I’m sure it was a lot for her to take in and digest; I know it was a lot of history and emotion for me to discuss. While I felt exhausted after our talk, I was glad that we had had it. I can’t say that I won’t continue to shelter her a bit from the uglier things, I do know that I don’t have to completely keep her out of the loop when things happen in the world. She is stronger than I give her credit for sometimes. I only hope she can stay that way.


3 thoughts on “It Had to Happen Eventually (the day I talked to my kid about 9/11)

  1. Ugh. I’m not looking forward to those difficult conversations. When 9/11 happened, I kept saying to myself that I should keep a journal, for my children. I didn’t want it to be like how my mom told me stories about what the atmosphere was like during Vietnam – it only seemed like stories, not like real life. Sadly, I didn’t keep a journal and I’m sure time has tempered some of my memories.

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