I blogged about this a couple years ago, but with the 10th anniversary of September 11th, I guess it's a good time to revisit the topic. It boggles my mind that it was 10 years ago that I watched the towers crumble from the Amerks' locker room and sat at my desk following the crash in Shanksville, PA, convinced that it might never end. No, there weren't any more plane crashes that day, but the more I watch the anniversary footage, the more I see that it doesn't really end. For the people who lost loved ones and friends, for the people who saw things beyond their wildest imagination, for those who suffer health effects from digging through the rubble...their pain may never end. When I think about how many people died in the wars our country has participated in, it strikes me how many stories never got written, how many children were never born, how many young people never got to experience adulthood. The victims of September 11th are much the same--smaller in number, but so many lives snuffed out in their prime. Kids who never got to meet their parents, couples that never got to have children, parents who lost sons and daughters, people that never got to grow old together.
We've been watching memorial footage most of the day (other than the Bills' opener--one bright spot in an otherwise rough day of viewing), and watching some of the documentary-style footage it still makes my heart beat fast and reminds me all too well of the chaos and absolute horror of that day. You can't take your eyes off it. And yes, we could just shut the TV off, but that doesn't change the fact that it happened and all the people listed above can't escape that it happened. Still, I can't decide if watching it is cathartic or further torture. If nothing else, I guess it's just how we spend this anniversary each year...though today being a weekend made it that much easier to get a much larger dose than usual.
Jacob was in the room for some of the footage--both of the memorial services and some of the documentaries. He asked a lot of questions and we tried to answer them as simply as possible. You know, references to "bad people", "buildings fell down", etc. Maybe we shouldn't have allowed it, but let's face it...he'll have to find out about this at some point, and I'd almost rather do it bits at a time, almost make it something that he's used to, rather than have him find out about a significant portion of it at an age where he can truly understand it and have nightmares or whatever. If it's always part of his existence, maybe by the time he understands the full significance he'll be old enough to handle it. Wishful thinking, I'm sure, but at this point I'm not sure how else to do it. We'll find our way, I'm sure, but probably not without some trauma one of these years. God knows that by next year we'll have to be a little more careful with the TV selections, because the questions will no doubt be that much more intense by then. The fact that we got questions already today was something I wasn't that prepared for, and it really got me wondering more in depth about how we're going to explain this someday. We can tell our stories from that day, but the larger story about how it impacted the world, how there are people that evil, how many people suffered so terribly...I can't even begin to explain it. History classes may do some of the dirty work, but only we can truly help him understand what it all means from our perspective.
Getting into the horrors of September 11th means tackling a lot of difficult topics--fire, plane crashes, evil people, death, destruction--and you never want to expose your child to such atrocities. They'll find out eventually, but it's hard to willingly expose your child to that, even if it means you're being proactive. It's hard to know an appropriate age or how many details they're ready for. I know Jacob is still too young for 99% of it, but you can't help but think about it on a day like today when it's all been refreshed in your mind. Maybe it can help prepare you for the next year, when it may become an imminently important question to answer. Or, God forbid, some other day when something else horrible takes place and you can't escape it. The footage we're watching today will fade away tomorrow, at least until next year, but I remember far too well how ubiquitous the coverage was 10 years ago. It's hard to escape, and as an educated person you sort of want to watch so you know what's happening in your own world. How do you keep up-to-date while protecting your own child? It's a tough balance, for sure. I pray that we never have to make that decision.
For now, all we can do is remember.