Twelve years ago yesterday, two commercial airliners, filled with American citizens, were flown into two majestic skyscrapers towering over NYC.
Twelve years ago, I watched in horror, as thousands of American lives were ended, when two towers came crumbling to the streets from a hundred plus stories up. I watched as the Pentagon exploded and thick, black, toxic smoke rose into the sky over D.C. In all honesty, the attack on Washington is secondary in everyone’s mind. Unless you or someone you loved was there of course, but I know, for me personally, it was all so overwhelming, that by the time the attack on the Pentagon took place, my brain could not handle anymore atrocity. And then of course, that plane that was taken down in a Pennsylvania field by the brave Americans on flight 93. God knows where that plane was heading.
Twelve years ago I watched it all unfold, with a hand held to my mouth to hold in the screams of horror, and knew, one day, I would have to explain this to my children I did not yet have.
Yesterday, was that day for my oldest.
The 9/11 specials every year on the anniversary are simultaneously too much to handle, and yet, I’m unable to tear myself away. I feel it’s almost a duty to watch, and never forget the horrors that befell our country that day. In an instant, on a blue-skied, sunny morning, everything changed forever.
Last night, as I read Paige her bedtime story, a 9/11 special was playing in the background. Specifically a new story of a firefighter from firehouse 10, located at the base of the towers. Paige and I finished our story at the instant in the special where the first tower falls. As the rubble came raining down on NYC, Paige gasped and said, “Mom! What happened?!”
Paige is my news junky, and could tell instantly that she was not watching a movie, she was watching something that had really happened. She can tell the difference between news coverage and cinema.
I closed the book and said, “C’mon, it’s bedtime,” and proceeded up the stairs to her room. She trailed behind me saying, “What happened, Mom? Why was that building on fire? Mom? I’m asking you questions, Mom?”
I was hearing her questions, but trying to find a way to explain to a seven year old the evil that exists in the world. I like to think my children’s world a happy one, and falling, burning, flaming towers, with thousands of people dying inside, or hundreds jumping to their death, do not factor into that world.
I covered her up in bed, and said, “Twelve years ago, some very bad people wanted to do a lot of damage to our country. They flew two planes into the towers you saw falling downstairs, in New York City, and they flew another one into a building in Washington D.C.”
“Washington D.C.?! Was it the White House?!”
“No, darling, it was not the White House. But it was another very important building. They did have a fourth plane, but some very, very brave people gave up their lives to protect more people on the ground, including possibly, the White House.”
A look of patriotic pride literally lit her up from within. “Phew! At least they protected the White House! Those bad people could’ve killed the president, Mom! That was very brave for people to give up their own lives for the president, Mom.”
I had a ball in my throat and found it hard to talk.
“I’m glad you and Dad were okay, Mom,” she continued.
“Oh, me and Daddy were never in any danger, honey,” I assured her.
“And that happened twelve years ago today?”
“Yes, today. And every year we make sure we honor and never forget the police and the firefighters and all the people that lost their lives. We’ll never forget their sacrifice and their families. Do you have questions, or want to talk about anything that you saw or I just told you?”
“What do you think I should wear to school tomorrow?”
I knew she was fine. In her world, she is safe, there is no danger, and Mom and Dad will always keep her safe. If only the whole world worked that way.
The terrorists attempted to bring down the financial aspect of our country, along with the political aspect. They tried to create fear in our lives, and into the lives of future generations. I don’t think they counted on the strength of the human spirit. I don’t think they counted on the swell of patriotic pride that would flow through the veins of even the littlest Americans.
And the promise to hold space in our hearts for those whose lives were tragically and needlessly taken from them on 9/11. Never forgotten.