The Children Of September 11

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.

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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.

As The Bodies Fell- He Played

And Justice For All

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Comments

  1. Your grandpa died, your sister got married and you moved. That is a full load, in fact. Keep on keeping on, Jack.

    “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.”

    I’ll add that 10 years later, state and warlord sponsored terrorism impose poverty, hunger, thirst, disease, ignorance, etc. across humanity. It’s even worse than that. The situation is urgent. But also urgent are our situations.

    Like Bill Dorman recently said, I’m Joe Lunch Bucket and whatever is going on, I’m doing my best to show up. Because, sometimes, that’s all I got in me.

  2. This is a heartfelt post. I hadn’t planned on writing one either but then I did. I think it is important for all of us to say what is there for us. It is the not saying that haunts us and doesn’t allow us to move forward. Thank you for sharing.

    PS.If you care to read mine:

    http://blisshabits.com/2011/09/september-11-2001-a-remembrance-and-a-request/

  3. This is a heartfelt post. I hadn’t planned on writing one either but then I did. I think it is important for all of us to say what is there for us. It is the not saying that haunts us and doesn’t allow us to move forward. Thank you for sharing.

    (If you care to read <a href=”http://blisshabits.com/2011/09/september-11-2001-a-remembrance-and-a-request/”>read mine</a> )

  4. @Joanne Cipressi Me too. As a son I was lucky enough to grow up with two parents and am still lucky enough to have them around. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for kids to grow up not knowing mom/dad and to wonder what life would have been like had they been around.

  5. @janetcallaway Janet the day absolutely must be about heroics and our gratitude for those deeds known and unknown. I suppose that part of my upbringing impacts my thoughts on this. Jewish history has more than a few examples of moments of horror and thus we have a tradition that has had much experience in learning how to emphasize the value/importance of life.

    There is no explanation for the behavior of the terrorists. I am very hawkish about how to deal with them. I am not a turn the cheek kind of guy unless it means moving your head so that you can see where to drop the bomb.

    But there is more to this than retribution, justice and revenge. While we can’t ignore the horror we can show the hope and the joy that was manifested by ordinary people coming together in common cause to help others.

    And that is what I want my kids to see, that is what I want them to focus on. Let them see that even during horror good can be found.

  6. @adamsok Hi Adam. I am forever surprised by how very strongly 9-11 impacted me. It is not that I am surprised that I was affected but the strength and intensity sometimes throws me- not exactly sure why.

    Those stories about children who lost parents kill me. That might be a poor choice of words but…

  7. Jack, Thanks for sharing your thoughts…this statement really touched my heart…”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.” Could only imagine what these children are experiencing today…and even everyday for the last ten years. My heart goes out to them.

  8. Jack, aloha. You had to write this post. You had to get it out of you so you could share your thoughts with your children. We are the fortunate beneficiaries of your beautiful, heartfelt expression. Thank you.

    Jack, I think the very best thing we can do to honor those fallen is to appreciate the lives that we do have and to make the most of them. We must give of ourselves, treat others respect and do the countless little things that matter so much to others.

    If you were able to make sense of this tragedy, you are even more of a words smith than I thought. To me that day has to be about the heroics rather than the horrors.

    Thank you, Jack, for this haunting tribute. Aloha. Janet

  9. Jack, very moving post. I saw a clip today of a boy who’s father passed on that day. He was born two weeks after 9/11. I could only imagine….

    Thanks for posting the other links. Really gave me your full perspective on the tragedy.

  10. @hereeverymomentcounts Thank you Amber.

  11. @AdrienneSmith Adrienne, there is no easy way about this day. Ten years later it is still a gaping wound for so many and something that we feel today. The kids and I talked about what it used to be like to fly and how you used to go right up to the gate.

    I miss some of those moments when you you would get off the plane and have your loved ones standing right there. We lost a lot, but sometimes I just can’t focus on what we lost.

  12. @subWOW We do forget all too quickly and that is a big part of why I do the same as you- watch and read. I watch the videos and read the stories so that we don’t miss the moment and lose the lessons learned.

    That debt of gratitude isn’t something that I can let myself forget or ignore and so I try to remind others of it.

  13. @Erin F. I didn’t take it as such. 🙂

  14. @TheJackB Yes, I agree. I hope I didn’t appear to state that grief and loss aren’t important. I simply enjoyed that you added other feelings, such as gratitude.

  15. hereeverymomentcounts says

    Oh Jack, this is beautiful.

  16. I’ve been shedding those tears lately Jack and your post just brought some more. Wow, what a rough couple of days and everywhere I turn I’m seeing, reading and hearing about this unfortunate anniversary. I appreciate you sharing this point of view and reminding us of the children Jack. I’m going to have to just leave it at that for now.

  17. It is a hard day for all of us, even those fortunate who, myself included, have not been directly impacted, and I cannot imagine being in those shoes. Yet I repeat the same post every year, making myself remember the feelings of gratitude that I felt in those days. Remember how we told ourselves that we should be grateful for the firefighters, the policemen, and people whose job it is to protect and serve, whose job it is to not be afraid and rush out against all instincts to save a life. All too soon we forget too quickly.

  18. @Erin F. There is an overwhelming amount of unadulterated grief and mourning surrounding this day and that is ok. But I think that at ten years out we have to include gratitude as part of the mix.

    That is not to minimize the loss or to say that it is not important but because part of honoring the memory is to recall the people that lost their lives trying to save others.

  19. @Lori It sometimes feels like a vicious circle to me.

  20. Thank you for writing this post. I love how you turned the focus of the post from being solely about grief and loss to that of gratitude.

  21. “the children of September 11 are joined in mourning by the children of those who have given up their lives protecting us since then.”

    You said it. Too sad.

    Lori

  22. @Christine@QuasiAgitato Perspective is one thing that I definitely feel like I have- but whether it is worth anything is questionable. Gratitude just seems to be the most important thing to me right now.

    Been hitting a few rough spots here and there and it reminded me that part of the reason that I got through is because I am a scrappy survivor and part is because of good friends who reminded me that I have much to be grateful for.

    It is a hard thing, this day….

  23. @John Falchetto Hi John. Each year I read stories and watch some videos about that day. This year I thought it was time to do something different.

  24. @bdorman264 Hi Bill, do the same. Try and avoid the gators and hurricanes- they can sure mess up a good game of tennis. 😉

  25. @LetMeStart Sometimes just writing down your thoughts helps to provide some clarity while simultaneously taking the edge off of it.

  26. I have been staring at my screen (or totally avoiding my computer) for a few days wanting and not wanting to talk about this. and seemingly unable to talk about anything else. in ten years i don’t feel i’ve gained an ounce of perspective on that day. it brings up the same jumble of emotions it has all along.

    i’m glad you mentioned gratitude. that’s one good place to focus.

  27. Each time this year I read many post from people who decide to express their feelings about 9/11. Yours is different; your point about the children reminds of the sacrificed generation who fought in WWI then WWII.

  28. Nice post Jack, I don’t have anything to add.

    Enjoy your weekend.

  29. I hear you. Thank you for sharing this. My kids are still young and not asking questions yet. I don’t know how to only let tiny, appropriate pieces out to explain this to them, when there is so much inside of me that I am still dealing with.

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