I watched the Towers fall while Steiner the minor played with blocks and wondered what sort of world my kid was entering.
He was in preschool when the second Gulf War started and I wondered again what the world would be like when he turned 18.
Two weeks from now he’ll be 15 and the conversations about what the world is like or will be like have evolved from things mom and dad talk about quietly at night to conversations with him about what is going on.
Can’t say there is anything unusual about that because it is normal for children/teens to talk about the world they live in and to ask questions about it.
Except today we got to have the talk about the terrorist attack in San Bernadino and the bomb scare that caused the entire school district to be shut down.
He was supposed to take two finals today.
They were going to follow the biology final he acedÂ the day before. He was psyched and ready for them but he found out again there is more truth to something his great grandfathers had said more than once to me:
“×“×¢×¨ ×ž×¢× ×˜×© ×˜×¨×Ö·×›×˜ ××•×Ÿ ×’×Ö¸×˜ ×œ×Ö·×›×˜/Der mentsh trakht un got lakht.”
I Am Not Worried
The children asked me what I thought and I told them it was just another bomb threat and that we had some when I was in school.
They asked why and I said some kids tried to get of out of finals and or assignments by trying to get the school shut down.
But that was long before Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, San Bernadino, Columbine, The Oklahoma City Bombing and 9/11.
In those days I couldn’t rattle off a list of violent attacks in less than 10 seconds.
You can debate amongst yourselves why that is so or whether it is safer or not now than it was but I am not going to entertain that in this post.
The point here is to capture a moment in time so that if we want to look back and find out what we did and said we can.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I wasn’t worried about a bomb threat because I wasn’t…mostly.
That is because even though I know statistically speaking the likelihood of us being involved in a terrorist attack of any sort very low compared to other things like car accidents, getting hurt playing a sport or just tripping over our own feet.
What is and was critical was making sure I showed the kids that I am not kidding about the importance of staying calm, cool and collected.
I don’t rattle easily, never have but at the same time there is a little whisper in the back of my head that says “what if.”
What if this time you pull a Joker from the deck and you aren’t around to protect the kids. What if something terrible happens and they have to face it without you there to help.
What if, what if, what if, what if.
Will You Fight The Russians?
It is May of 1987 and I am standing in line at the Post Office waiting to register with Selective Service.
“Dude, my dad saw combat in Vietnam. It fucked him and his buddies up real good. Will you really fight the Russians?”
I laugh and smile, “Someone tell Joey Stalin I am going to yank on his ‘Stache and kick his ass. We don’t have a draft anymore. I am signing up because it is the right thing to do, but I am not worried about it. We’re not going to get drafted.”
Later on that night I lie in bed and wonder what it would take for the U.S. to reinstate the draft and what it would mean for us.
I just don’t see it happening, it seems impossible to me. If you ignore the Russians there isn’t anyone around who can take on the US and win.
But I think about my plans to go to Israel for college and wonder if I’ll decide to make aliyah because then I will definitely join the army.
It is a whole different ball of wax, but I figure if I do decide to do it I’ll be comfortable because I’ll be helping the Jewish people and I can’t stand the idea that some people think of us as being weak victims who didn’t fight back.
I dragged my feet before leaving the house because I wanted to make sure the kids were ok and because I wanted had a 125 mile each way trip waiting for me.
Watched another press conference and wondered why the New York schools stayed open and ours didn’t.
Rumor was they received the same or similar threat to ours.
Checked the tank and confirmed I had enough gas to go roundtrip without stopping and left to start my run.
Flipped through satellite radio and spent a couple of minutes listening to Jim Croce on the 70s channel but was too antsy for slow music so I put in my USB and turned on my Led Zeppelin playlist.
“Babe I am Going to Leave You” reached its crescendo and the speedometer passed 90.
The road is mostly empty and in no time I am heading over the Grapevine, mostly focused upon the meetings I am going to.
But the whisper in my head comes back and I remember when my son heard about Sandy Hook and told me not to worry because he sat next to the door and figured he could run outside and get away if something happened.
Those words ring in my mind and I nod my head because they are true and because this moment is part of parenting.
A Father’s Job
My job and main responsibility isn’t protecting my kids by wrapping them up in bubble wrap.
It is teaching them how to go out and successfully fend for themselves.
“Dad, do you ever worry about terrorist attacks?”
“Not much. I figure if I can run to safety then I’ll run and if I can’t I’ll hide. If I can’t hide then I’ll fight and I will do whatever I can to kill them.”
“Would you really kill people?”
“When you were very little you asked me if I would kill the bad people dead and I promised I would. I said yes because at 3 you were too young to have a real conversation about it.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that I don’t want to ever find out what would happen. It means that G-d forbid you are in a dangerous situation I want you to do exactly what I said. Run or hide. But if you have to fight you do what it takes to protect yourself.
I don’t expect it to ever happen, but you know my grandpa used to say ×“×¢×¨ ×ž×¢× ×˜×© ×˜×¨×Ö·×›×˜ ××•×Ÿ ×’×Ö¸×˜ ×œ×Ö·×›×˜./Der mentsh trakht un got lakht.”
I reiterate again that I worry more about the stupid stuff that happens to people and not the random violence associated with terror, he nods his head and goes back to study.
Just Another Bomb Scare
Evening falls upon us and the news says that it was a hoax, just another bomb scare.
I am mostly relieved but angry that someone caused this sort of chaos.
It makes run through the day, all of the conversations and all of the conversations we have had before.
“Did I give them good advice or did I say something stupid that needs correction?”
“Is there anything I forgot to add or should do to provide more help?”
There are no good answers to these questions, experience has already taught me that.
All I can do is try to provide the best guidance I can and hope they make smart choices, but somewhere in the back of my mind I hear that whisper, “×“×¢×¨ ×ž×¢× ×˜×© ×˜×¨×Ö·×›×˜ ××•×Ÿ ×’×Ö¸×˜ ×œ×Ö·×›×˜./Der mentsh trakht un got lakht.”
Janine Huldie December 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm
Jack, it is truly crazy the world we live in and we actually live in the town and my kids go to the school that the young NYC police officer that was killed last year went to. My girls both have girls in their classes that were related to this young man. I had to try to explain this to my then 5 year old last year and trust me the words weren’t easy to come by. But still it is sadly just the reality now and like you I try my best, but still wish deep down it didn’t have to be this way. Your post was truly beautifully written and gave me even more food for thought tonight.
Jack Steiner December 17, 2015 at 12:02 am
That is a hard conversation to have, never easy and never a good time. It is tough, but I believe in confronting the reality we face and sharing it in age appropriate pieces with our kids.
I think it helps them acclimate and deal better with life but damn it sucks to chip away at the innocence huh.
glasgowdragonfly December 15, 2015 at 11:36 pm
Brilliant post Jack. Think it sums up a lot of how many people are thinking. Thank goodness it was a hoax-although the mass panic & now fear did their jobs for them sadly.
Jack Steiner December 16, 2015 at 11:53 pm
You are correct. I am concerned about the impact of this and what sort of aftershocks we’ll feel. That is not hyperbole either, it is me wondering if fear will take precedence over calm decision making.
All we can do is carry on and move forward and hope it all works out I suppose.