I've seen a lot of chatter in my online moms groups around this date, all asking the same question: How do you talk to your kids about 9/11?
I have no advice to offer anyone on that topic. My daughter started kindergarten right after Labor Day in 2001. We were both getting used to her new routine that awful Tuesday morning. The alarm went off -- as it still does -- at 5:00 a.m. with the calm voices of NPR's Morning Edition reading the news of the day. My husband likes to get in to work early, so he was going about his routine, while I listened, half-asleep.
And then came the news that jolted me awake. The first plane had hit the first tower, and it was being reported almost as an accident. No one yet knew what was to come, and even if the news readers were thinking "terrorism," it was too early to utter the word.
And then the second plane hit and the world changed.
I was fully awake now. My husband's morning routine was stopped in its tracks. We turned on the television in the room and watched, and forgot about time passing and that I needed to get my daughter ready for school... until she got up on her own and wandered in to our room to see what we were watching.
I am a news junkie. It isn't so much because I love the news, as I feel it is important to know what is going on in our world. I grew up reading the newspaper every day, and used to be annoyed with people who did not make the effort to be informed. I wanted to instill those habits in my child.
So right or wrong, I did not turn off the television. I allowed her to see and hear the news as it unfolded. As we got ready for school, I learned that the Pentagon was also under attack... and then Flight 93's crash in rural Pennsylvania.
At that time, no one knew if the terrorist attack was over. And in the middle of my anguish for those poor people who went to work that sunny day with no idea of what was to come, I wondered: Would there be more planes crashing into more buildings? Were more cities being targeted? Would Los Angeles be next?
I was in second grade in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. My mother immediately took me out of school. I finally understood why on the morning of 9/11. All I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and hold her until the nightmare was over -- because this could not really be happening.
But the world had irrevocably changed that morning, and there was no escape. The only way I know how to cope with tragedy is to focus on activities I think of as "normal." I drove her to school, with NPR on the radio (because that was what I always listened to in the morning). Was that a mistake? Maybe. She was going to learn what happened that day eventually. I saw no reason to try to hide it.
And I needed to know what was happening. I needed to feel connected. I was connected. An attack on any American citizen on American soil is an attack on all of us.
On our way to school, we learned that the second tower had collapsed and my daughter saw me cry.
I walked her to her classroom in a state of shock and hugged her tightly before saying goodbye. The other kindergarten moms were doing the same. And then, after we left our children with their teacher, we hugged each other, even though we were still strangers.
My daughter does not remember a lot about her early childhood, but she remembers the day the planes crashed into the buildings. She has no memory of the world before; the one where we had confidence and hope and the sure knowledge that the future was bright.
And I'm so sorry.