It is hard to absorb that 15 years have passed since the attacks on 9/11. For those of us in NY, much like I assume DC and the relatives and friends of those who died in PA, it is still a date that divides itself into our lives as before and after. I also assume this is true for all survivors of terrorist attacks or wars or trauma.
In these 15 years my world was altered by other events but the two that most changed me after 9/11 are the births of my two sons. As a mom you worry about things that are rational, they could fall and injure themselves, and irrational like mine is tsunami. I do not know why one terrifies me so much as I am no where near where one could happen but the idea of that kind of powerlessness and it's pure magnitude means it could take my kids. I get it not likely but Dr. Freud sees the underlying I can't protect them from everything subtext.
How do you teach kids about 9/11 when you tend to be a wreck about it? Recently the boys and I were downtown and found ourselves near the 9/11 Memorial Tribute museum. I don't go down to that area, it is not a tourist attraction for me and it still is very raw for me. Yet there we were and they wanted to go inside and we did - it all came back, the news flashes, my seeing it, the missing posters, the firefighters and first responders (among which a friend of mine is one who sacrificed himself because "that's what they do" and his family and friends in the department who spent hours there and who now our elected officials have the nerve to even waiver for one minute on giving them the health benefits they are owed). I was a mess and my boys did everything to comfort me. We listened to the story of a relative who lost his brother in the attack, who hugged me at the end because he saw that I was not just another visitor but a wounded New Yorker. We New Yorkers share that grief much like we shared our humanity that day, silently and quietly for the most part but never forgetting it.
So 15 years later when I as the mother of a 12 and almost 10 year old have to explain to my post-9/11 children about that date I do it in the way that I have tried to live my life particularly after that date more than before it.
I live my life and tell them of the humanity of that day, of how all people around the world did not see anything other than how they could help, how they mourned. They did not allow the hijackers to hijack their religion except if they were terrorists themselves looking for anything to justify a hatred that has made them into the living dead. The zombies who see no pleasure, no love, no hope and want to spread that but keep running into the wall of humanity that just won't allow it.
I tell my kids that wars and people who wish to do ill cannot be given our hatred for them or anyone who has any common background to them because they are not worth it. I teach them the beauty of the people who rebuilt, build, invent and give back because those are the names we read each year on the anniversary of this event never the names of those who deserve no remembrance for the pain and death they caused.
My boys are raised to appreciate life, to enjoy the little and big experiences and to look to things that hurt as parts of what life is and that we can learn from it. They are empathetic and kind and never refer to anyone who committed these atrocities by anything other than the bad men - that is all they are. Those are the people who make their mom cry, their mom who is usually good for a laugh and smile and who does not allow her sadness to win but rather to allow it then move to understand that it is there less than her appreciation for the beauty of this crazy city, wild life and them.
How do you raise kids in a post 9/11 world? You raise them to never forget those who were kind and good and are no longer with us. You raise them to be kind and to not judge people. You raise them to embrace diversity. You raise them with the hope that 9/11 is a historical event and that while other attacks have happened and may happen they are singular in a multitude of days where the world does really try to move forward. Those towers did not take down our ability to be our best selves unless we let them.