Monday, September 11, 2006

My addition to the wealth of memories

Today is a day of remembrance. All day, everywhere we turn, we see the images and hear the stories of that day, five years ago. This little blog will be no different. For me, it's important to remember and to make a record.

I know what I was doing exactly five years ago, right at this time. I was finally tucking in my children, emotionally exhausted and feeling a little shell-shocked from the day. That's how days that change the world feel.

My son was on the cusp of a milestone - his tenth birthday. September 12th, 2001. We had a big birthday party planned for the following Saturday. As I tucked him in, he said the most astounding thing I'd ever heard from a little boy.

"Mommy, I was thinking. Can we change my birthday? This isn't a time for people to be thinking of me."

I hugged him with all the pride I could have for this wonderful child. His tenth birthday. It would only happen once. But even he felt the magnitude of the day's events. He would wait while the world mourned. And he never complained. Later, I bought a book to keep for him: "September 12, 2001: The Day We Knew Everything Would Be All Right."

I called his friends' mothers and postponed everything a week. Everyone understood, and we had a great party the next week.

On his actual birthday, we had a family celebration. In the midst of the festivities, I didn't notice that the restaurant's televisions were playing the horrible pictures again. My little daughter, just 6, pulled at my sleeve. Her eyes transfixed on the screen, she quietly asked, "It's not happening again, is it?" I held her and let her know it wasn't a new attack. We were safe, and I moved her to a seat away from the television.

September 11, 2001 was dominated by shock, sadness, and overwhelming resentment for me. I know it sounds petty and selfish, in the face of much greater loss, but I resented the loss of that part of my children's innocence. I resented explaining to a 6-year-old little girl what "terrorist" and "hijacking" meant, and how some people have such hate that they cease caring about living, breathing beings.

I hated the moment when my children asked me, "Were there kids on those planes?" And the looks on their little faces when I had to say, "Yes." "And mommies and daddies?" they said. "Yes," I said. The resentment was not for their questions, but for those who made the questions possible.

I didn't allow the television on until we had talked about the images they would inevitably see. I knew I couldn't hide it forever. This had changed their world forever. If I didn't talk about it, someone else would.

In the aftermath, I noticed the polarity in the reactions. Among the people in my sphere, the men wanted to rush to war, to exact revenge. The women wanted to gather their loved ones close and stay behind the bolted doors of home. We all lost a bit of innocence, I suppose.

In the midst, though, was the beacon that was my son. Love and hope for another, better day survived in his heart. Thank God for small favors.

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