Photo Credit: Used Under the Assumption of Fair Use.
Like most Americans, I am personally deeply affected every year on September 11. For me, that day did not begin like any other. My almost two-year old son had been sick for a week, so I had asked my husband to delay his trip to lower Manhattan for a couple of hours so that I could have a break and go to the gym. He reluctantly agreed, partly because it’s the only time I had ever asked for such a favor, but mostly because he heard the urgency in my request. He sat down his briefcase and started making phone calls as I ran out the door.
My aerobics class ended at 9:00 am EST. As I was exiting the gym, I walked past the cardio room and noticed a large and growing crowd standing around the TVs mounted on the wall. I was in a rush to get home so that my husband could get on with his day, but like others, my feet stopped and my mind scrambled as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing on the screen.
The hours that followed are a blur. I remember the flood of relief that my son’s illness is what kept my husband out of lower Manhattan that morning, my fear for friends and family that likely were in the towers when the planes hit, and my mad dash to the high school to pick up my other son with the thought that if this gets worse, we might need to run for the hills.
The days, weeks, and months that followed were also a blur. We hugged, cried, and helped make funeral and memorial arrangements. We cooked, cleaned, provided beds for friends of friends, collected supplies, and donated blood.
But through all this busyness, we also were busy with the mental process of making sense of it all. We had each other, and we had a shared experience. Many of us had to shut off the TV, but some needed to see the images over and over. Some of us had to talk it through, while others preferred to pray or meditate. At the gym, we put a little extra behind our punches and kicks, and incorporated physical activity into our recovery. We were there. We lost loved ones. Some of us were miraculously not there that morning.
I experienced September 11, 2001 with my two older children. I know they will never forget the lessons from that day. But my sons, born in 1999 and 2009, need to learn of this day from me. And they need to learn it in context, so that the lesson isn’t lost. I don’t think that is possible without pictures. How do you comprehend a building 1,368 feet tall crashing to the ground? Even as my eyes saw the second plane crash into the second tower, the south tower collapse to the ground, then the north tower fall, my mind struggled to grasp what was happening. And if we lose context, we lose the lesson. I want my younger children to know what hate looks like and is capable of producing. I want to connect that level of hate to past atrocities that can seem unreal in the history books. This is our link to the past, and only in remembering, can we stay vigilant to the dangers that can lead us to unspeakable acts against humankind.
Our millennial and generation Z kids live in a visual world. They need to see to believe. I will pick and choose age-appropriate pictures, but to shield them from this event will not keep them any safer. They need to see and understand to be safer. And once they understand, they can join the rest of us who choose to transform the lessons of that day info something meaningful. We can combat hate with love. We can lift up those who can’t lift themselves. We can smile when someone else needs us to, even if we don’t feel like it.
Pictures from September 11, 2013, while painful, serve to help us remember, to be vigilant, and to remind us that we can do better. My kids will see them.
By: Peggy Lee
Peggy and I were talking about the difficult decision parents must make to regarding whether or not to show our children the pictures and footage from 9/11. Personally, I agree with Peggy’s view. As parents, we must make this decision as we choose for our own children. I asked Peggy to share her thoughts in this article. I have shared my own memory of that day. The first question I asked myself was, “Am I Dead?” See that post, here.