Monday, May 2, 2011

You have to watch

"You have to watch this," I told my 10-year old daughter. "Just a few minutes."

I have been glued to the TV for hours now -- news junkie that I am -- watching as America celebrates the news of the day. Military forces have killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

She, however, has been watching the Disney Channel in the other room. And is itching to go back to it.


"Why?" she wants to know.

"Because it's history," I replied. "Someday you'll want to tell your children that you saw this."

So she looked. She watched. But she doesn't know.

She was just an infant the day those planes crossed the sky and changed the world forever in the year of her birth.  She has no images in her head of the towers aflame, of the black smoke, of the dust covered people, of the horror-stricken faces. She doesn't remember that punched-in-the-gut feeling we all had.

She has no idea who or what an Osama bin Laden is.

Was.

But it's my job to teach her.  So I made her come into the living room to watch the crowds as they gathered in celebration outside of the White House and at Ground Zero tonight, in the moments after the President announced that bin Laden had been killed. Just as my sister made me come out of my room to watch the moon landing.

"Who killed him?" she wanted to know.

"Our military," I said.

She watched some more, but was really waiting for me to hand over the laptop and let her go.

"Do you know who he was?" I asked her.

"Yeah," she replied. "He was that dude that took some planes or something."

And I realized that she doesn't know.

I gently tried to explain.  But how do you explain it to a young, innocent child who has no concept of such evil? How do you tell her that a human man could fathom such a horrific plan to willingly kill as many people as possible using fuel-loaded jets? Do I want to give her the nightmares we've all had since then? No.

But I want her to understand what this day means to so many.

So I explained that he came up with this idea, to take over some planes and fly them into the buildings.  Then
 I Googled 9/11 attacks. Images. And I showed her.

"Wow," she said, looking at image after image of the flaming buildings and the pluming black smoke. "Where are the planes?"

"They're inside," I said.

But I don't think she got it.

And that's both a good and a bad thing.

Maybe she will remember. Maybe she won't. Maybe she will tell her children. Maybe she won't. But I will. And I did.

Or, I tried.



2 comments:

  1. This is amazing. I was just thinking about this on the way home. How many people either, A) have no clue what happened today, wondering instead what Lady Gaga and Kate Middleton are wearing, or B) saw the news but have no idea what it means. There are people who literally do not understand what happened just one decade ago, something that changed all our lives, even if we never realized it. I still to this day remember the exact moment in time when I heard about airplanes hitting business towers in New York, and even as a 15-year-old I understood -- or thought I did. But how many children have grown up in the last 10 years with war as a norm, not even knowing why our military is in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, etc. Just knowing that they're there. This isn't some remote history from a century ago that they are learning in a boring social studies class. This is our lives. And this day is history itself.

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  2. Very hard task as a parent. I'm sure teachers around the country are facing similar tasks, explaining why people were celebrating the death of a man.

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