Nine years ago on September 11, 2001, I was living with my husband in downtown Manhattan and expecting our first child. It seemed as if nothing could go wrong on that spectacularly beautiful fall day.
Preparing to head out to work, we turned on the TV and heard there had been a freak accident and a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers.
Looking back now, we seem so naive. But how were we to know what had really happened?
Never contemplating the prospect of terrorism, we left for work. On a crosstown bus, a man holding a transistor radio called out, “Oh my God, they’ve hit the Pentagoon.” People began to panic and so did I.
Then everyone on the bus let out a collective cry as we looked downtown and saw the World Trade Center in flames.
Pregnant with my first child, I felt especially vulnerable. The smokey air I was inhaling couldn’t be good for my fetus. Even scarier, what sort of world was I bringing my baby into?
Soon after September 11, I wrote a letter to my future daughter in which I wrote “the world has changed so much recently that little things seem so insignificant. One day, I’ll tell you about the World Trade Center and how on September 11, everything in our lives seemed to change. We worried about the world you would grow up in and whether you would have the same freedom we enjoy.”
Now my daughter Jesse is 8 1/2 and I’m wondering if it’s time to show her the letter. She knows that “bad guys” were responsible for toppling the towers, but she hasn’t asked for more information than that and I’ve been reluctant to tell her anything else.
But writing on momlogic.com, Jennifer Ginsberg suggests talking to kids about the events of September 11 and about terrorism. “If you avoid bringing up the topic with your children, you may inadvertently create more anxiety by reinforcing the idea that it is too scary to even broach,” writes Ginsberg. “However, given the frightening nature of terrorism and the shadowy nature of its architects, it may be impossible to absolve their fears entirely.”
Ginsberg doesn’t recommend lying to children, but, obviously, you’ll want to explain things in an age-appropriate way. I plan to be much more direct with Jesse when I talk to her about September 11 than with her little sister Ruby, who is only 5.
Ginsberg also says it’s important to make it clear that Muslims are not the bad guys, but terrorists are. ” By having an honest and thorough discussion, it will be made clear that while Islamic fundamentalism is being used in many places around the world to incite violence … it is never acceptable to have prejudice against a group of people or a religion as a whole,” writes Ginsberg.
Outside of the firehouse in our Brooklyn neighborhood, there is a statue commemorating the firefighters from that firehouse who lost their lives on 9/11. Tomorrow, I plan to take my daughters there to talk about that day.
Have you talked to your children about terrorism and the tragic events of September 11? Do you have any advice you would like to share?