When I watched the tragic events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 unfold on the news in my high school classroom, I wanted to forget everything I was witnessing. I mourned with America and feared for my safety, and I remember just wishing that the events were a bad dream. 18 years later, the day is set aside as a memorial and is called Patriot’s Day on all American calendars.
Flash forward to present day and my 2nd grader is absolutely obsessed with the calendar. He asked me this morning if Patriot’s Day was a holiday like the Fourth of July and if it was a holiday then why had “his friend said it was a sad day and not a good day?”
I was reminded in his confusion just how observant kids truly are and took it as a sign that he was ready for his first conversation about 9/11. I didn’t want him to continue to seek information from another 7-year-old, and since it’s difficult for this mama not to shed tears every year on Patriot’s Day, I didn’t want him to see me cry and perplex him even further.
I have never spoken to any other parents about what they tell their children about today. I really didn’t know where to begin; I just know that our first “tough talk” needed to be as hopeful as possible. I needed him to always know that even after darkness, the sun rises on a new day. Children need to be reassured of their safety. The actual conversation about what happened on 9/11 ended up turning into a “storybook-like presentation” and I am fine with this. It seemed to put his little mind at ease. This works for us for now and I thought I’d share what I told him just in case it helps another mama who can’t find the words to help explain the unimaginable:
“We are very fortunate to live in a country where we are free. We have freedom of speech and we are able to attend school and learn about almost anything. We get to elect our President and leaders. We get to live with different people who believe in different things, speak different languages and look different from each other. This freedom makes us happy. It really makes our country one of a kind.
Sometimes, people that live in other countries do not have the freedoms that we have, which makes them unhappy. The world is great and full of people. There are good people and sometimes there are bad people. The bad people know what’s good but they choose to be bad anyway. When bad people do bad things, they are acting scary and can make the world a bit scary.
On September 11, 2001, there were bad people who became angry with Americans because they didn’t like our happiness. They flew some planes into 2 buildings in New York City, called the Twin Towers. They were 100 stories high, so they were very big and they could fit a lot of people in them. The Twin Towers were so high in the air, all of the people in them couldn’t get out. There were good people on the planes, too. Mommies and Daddies. Their lives were lost because of the bad people. This made all of America very scared and very sad. It made America sad to clean up all of the mess from the buildings on September 11th.
But, guess what? The sun came up and all of America took their flags out and flew them to remind all that were left behind to stay strong and be together. Even though the country was still crying a lot because they missed their friends and family, some real life superheroes showed up to help them feel better. They began cleaning up the mess and making sure everyone around them was safe. They were our firemen, policemen, and ambulance drivers. Everyone hugged all of their loved ones a lot because a day like this shows us that we never know when someone can leave us, so it is very important to love them as much as you can while they’re with you.
A few years later the President named September 11th as Patriots Day. We celebrate Patriots Day by thinking of all of the good people we lost and trying to be as brave and good as we can be to honor them, their families and the superheroes that helped all of them.”