When do you let the horrors of the world crash into the rhythms of childhood? When are kids ready to hear that there really are bad guys out there? Rather than have them hear about it on the playground, I revealed 9/11 to the kids a few years ago, after a particularly difficult airport security experience, when Bella was 8 and Jack was 6. Juju was just a baby then and Sophie not even a concept. We were walking through the streets of Paris as I told them the story of that horrible day and we came back to it over and over again over the next few months, digesting the hate and the terror.
This morning at breakfast, between scrambled eggs and lunchbox packing, I led us in a moment of silence and remembrance. I wasn’t planning on it, but Jack and Bella were just too cavalier about the day. “Yeah, yeah Mom. It’s 9/11. We know. But remember you promised that we can go to the Lemonaid Bake Sale today after school!” I stopped them in their tracks. We have to remember. This day has to have meaning, has to serve a purpose. In the midst of all this discussion about Syria, remembering the hate of 9/11 seems even more important, only to avoid making it worse.
Tears streaming down my face, feelings still raw twelve years later, I launched into my memories of that day. The people walking all the way up to the Upper West Side, their blank faces still streaked with dust and destruction. The bright blue sky. The plumes of smoke that lasted for days. All of it across the street from where I met and fell in love with Steve, where we worked, ate, drank, and played for years. Webbing my hands across my straining belly to protect unborn Bella from the nightmare.
When I was done, I wiped my tears and looked at the kids around the table, listening intently, speechless for once. I told them that they had the power to prevent another day of horrors, simply by being open and welcoming to everyone’s differences. Religion. Color. Gender. Opinions. Differences have to be celebrated instead of feared, to fight hate and horror. That kind of change of attitude by remembering the horrors of 9/11 and celebrating diversity on the playground and in the lunchroom before those kids grow up to become the leaders of tomorrow.