This is the post that I didn’t intend to write. This is the tale that I didn’t intend to tell. I have told it before. I have shared these stories here and in other places and had planned on writing something else. Lately my writing has been so damn heavy it seemed like the perfect time to provide lighter material. It is easy enough to do. I could refer you to old posts that make people laugh or write something funny. That had been my plan, but it was derailed.
That plan was derailed, altered and adjusted because I have been swimming in 9/11 stories and photos and I just have to get this out there. Have to clear my head so that when the kids come home I am ready to talk about it with them. It won’t be the first hard conversation we have had.
We have talked about the death of my grandparents, my dog and assorted goldfish. We have talked about why someone killed Martin Luther King and have had an exceptionally painful talk about gas chambers. But this feels different to me. Maybe it is because it is a “big” anniversary or maybe it is because the month of August was a roller coaster of emotion. Grandpa died, my sister got married and we moved. That is a full load.
Ultimately the reasons why it is heavy don’t matter because these children of mine call me dad. They call me dad and expect me to give them answers to questions like why do people murder others. They want to know why and they want to hear me say that I will protect them from the bad people and bad things.
Those are moments that stick with you. The conversations in which they beg you to promise not to die and then tell you that they are afraid of dying. The moments where they ask if you will “kill the bad guys dead” stick with you because even though they are barely four years-old you know that it is possible that something horrible could happen. You know people who have been murdered, committed suicide, died from terminal illness or in car accidents.
You know that statistically speaking it is highly unlikely that any of this will happen, but you remember hearing stories of a great aunt who was hit by a train. You remember standing graveside at the funeral of dear friend and wondering how at 29 someone dies from cancer. Not to mention the blogosphere. You love the blogosphere but it is also filled with stories of horror and mishap. You know parents who have lost children and know that sometimes things happen.
There is no time to wallow in worry about things that didn’t happen but still sometimes you worry.
You think about the people who put themselves in harms way. While people fled they ran forwards and did the best that they could to save others. And that is when you realize that this is going to be another conversation about gratitude.
I am assuming that the kids will talk about 9-11 in school, especially my fifth grader. I have an idea for how I want that conversation to go and what I want to discuss. Gratitude has to be a part of it. They need to hear about the people that work in service of others. They need to know about them and understand that we owe them more than a simple thank you.
The words are hard to come by. I have more than a few thoughts flowing through my mind. There is a parade of pictures, sounds and images inside it. I have listened to some of the recordings from that day. Ten years later it hurts to hear strangers call their loved ones to say goodbye.
It is different for my children than my sister’s kids back east. They know more than a few people who lost loved ones. They know children who don’t have a parent any more. It takes on a different sort of reality when you know people who were lost. It takes on a different sort of reality when you know survivors.
But at the moment I am lost in thought about how many things changed that day. Ten years later we are still fighting two wars and it occurs to me that in some ways the children of September 11 are joined in mourning by the children of those who have given up their lives protecting us since then.
Editor’s Note: Here are a couple of relevant links that I didn’t work into the body of the post but are important to me to mention.