Talking To Kids About 9/11 (Without Really Talking About It)Christine Coppa
I remember 9/11 like it happened yesterday. I was in Philly and it was my junior year of college. I was living with a tiny, pretty ballerina named Kristy and studying Communications at The University of the Arts. I had an early class. I got up from my twin bed with the puffy floral duvet to make coffee, walked past the red exposed brick wall (loved) in my walkup brownstone apartment off Rittenhouse Park.
I turned on the big, chunky TV, not looking at it, before I entered the narrow kitchen. I pushed the coffee switch on. Sizzle, drip-drip-drip. I pressed my palms on the glass door that led out to the fire escape where we grew little herb plants and where Kristy would sun. It was a clear, sunny morning. Smile. I poured a cup of coffee and Katie Couric reported that a small plane hit the World Trade Center and that the pilot must have had a heart attack. But, then I watched another plane slam into the other building. Fire Ball. I called my family and we briefly spoke. I dressed and walked the eight blocks to class—what else could I do?
People swarmed like bees to cafes and stared up at televisions. A woman in a suit gave a homeless man money to get food. “Go get food now,” she said. By the time I got to the Terra building the Pentagon had been hit. School closed. I got sandwiches with my girlfriends Kateri, Tanika and Jazmine and we decided my apartment was the safest since I lived the furthest from City Hall. We watched the news all day and tried to call family. The calls did not go through. We watched a movie (Memento). But we didn’t really watch it. We were just numb, scared, confused, and in disbelief.
Eleven years later my son wore a red shirt and blue jeans to school today. The school calendar said “Wear red, white and blue!” And crazy, single mom Chrissy, was like … why? It’s not Labor Day. Then I eyeballed the date: 9/11. It all came flooding back to me. That kitchy apartment that was sandwiched between The Pleasure Chest and Wonderland (sex + smoke shops—parents loved my choice for housing). The shimmering trees and painters in Rittenhouse Park, the Xando cafe, Marathon Grille, eating Salad Works between classes, the grand steps, the towering Terra building and the 11th floor (yes, 11) where I had most of my classes.
JD is into picking out his own clothes and I usually let him, so when I showed him the red polo shirt I wanted him to wear he wasn’t feeling it, but I knew if he got to school without red, white and blue on—and saw the other kiddos wearing the colors he’d feel left out. Plus, I wanted him to honor the day!
“It’s a special day. You need to wear red, white and blue,” I said calmly. “But whhhhhhh-y!?” he moaned. In the background the news was on and memories of 9/11 were being broadcast. JD is 5 and while I didn’t share scary details, I was open and honest with him.
“Baby, a long time ago some bad guys did something super mean on 4 airplanes. They started a fight with some nice, innocent people in New York City, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania. So, today, we stand up to the bad guys and wear red, white and blue to show how proud we are to be Americans and honor our friends that the bullies hurt.”
JD was super receptive and started asking a gazillion questions. (He’s so my kid.) As I helped him dress, I told him how I was away at college when the fight happened and that Uncle Carlo was in college in New York City, but no where near the fight so he was safe. Uncle Bri was in college too, but had no class and was driving to work to make … yum-o pizza! Silly Uncle Bri didn’t know about the bullies because he slept late and didn’t put the news on. (I’ll never forget Bri recapping that day: “It was like weird, man. There were no cars on Route 46.”)
JD asked where he was when all this went down. I smiled and brushed the blond hair from his brow. “You weren’t born, or even in my belly, but you were safe, in my sweetest of dreams somewhere.”
In the elevator JD told our neighbor he was wearing his red shirt and blue jeans because of what the bullies did today. Atta boy!
Above photo: Kateri, Jaz and I after we visited 9/11 in September of 2001
Did your kids ask about 9/11? What did you say? Share. 9/11 NEVER FORGET
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