Momservation: It’s a sad day when your children realize the world they live in can be a very scary place. Your hope is instead of frightening them it will inspire them to make it safer.
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The morning after Osama Bin Laden was finally brought to justice I woke my children to tell them the news.
It was worse than telling them there was no Santa Claus (which I haven’t done yet).
That’s because at ages 10 and 11 they vaguely knew about 9/11 and they certainly weren’t aware there was a madman who made it his life’s mission to destroy our country. They didn’t know that full body scans at airports weren’t always part of traveling. They didn’t realize when Mommy’s purse is checked at Disneyland it’s to make sure she doesn’t have a bomb or poisonous liquids.
And it was all by design. There was no reason, at their age, to burden them with the reality that the world can be a scary place and that the America they live in today has to always be ready for the next attack.
They were only five and 22 months old on 9/11. I actually have pictures of them I took that day because they looked so cute and innocent transfixed in front of the TV watching Elmo’s World – the episode about bugs, my son’s favorite. Then the phone rang. And I turned the channel just in time to see the north World Trade Center Tower collapse.
Below is an excerpt from the journal entry I wrote a week later, so frightened for my children and the scary new world they would live in.
As I tried to grasp the horror being played out in front of me…I felt my life, my family’s life, American lives change course. Forced onto a path that was dark and unlit without the light of hope. As a mother, how can you envision bright and hopeful opportunities for your children’s future when you see a plane full of innocent people forced to end their lives by taking other unsuspecting souls with them? If there is such evil in the world to do this…when will it come knocking on our door?
I look back at one week ago, before September 11, 2001 was written in blood into our history books, and grasp for the comfort, peace, and opportunity of the United States I lived in. I weep for the innocence that was stolen from my children before they could even articulate what they wanted to be when they grew up. I am scared that I am old enough to know and understand what this new terroristic future will hold…but most of all, I wish that one week ago I had instead seen the end of Elmo’s World and that our world was still as innocent as I had seen reflected in my children’s eyes.
Now, nearly ten years later, it was time to sit down my children and tell them the security they knew wasn’t real. I knew that if I didn’t educate my children about this significant moment in history – Bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. soldiers – they would learn about it the second they hit the school playground possibly in a much scarier way with misinformation and exaggerated details. If their perception of the world was going to change forever that day, I wanted to at least be there for them as the truth revealed itself and sank in.
After I played President Obama’s speech for them and showed them a book about 9/11 the questions came fast and furious:
Were people on those planes and did they die?
Did people die when the Twin Towers collapsed?
Why would someone want to kill themselves or blow up innocent people?
What did the United States do to make that man want to do that?
What does Osama Bin Laden’s family think about what he’s done?
My son, who is older and has an uncanny knack for compartmentalizing, seemed startled but took this new information about his world in stride. But it was just as I feared with my philosophical daughter, Whitney. With trepidation she said, “I’m never going to feel the same about riding on a plane again.”
Later, after thinking more about it she added, “I always felt like when bad things happened it wasn’t real – it seemed more like a scary fairy tale in books I’ve read. I used to think living in Sacramento was like living in a fairy tale.”
Her dawning realization of the world she lived in made my heart ache for her just as it did nearly 10 years earlier. It made me angry at Bin Laden all over again. The United States may have finally brought him to justice but the madman’s final act of terror was to steal my daughter’s innocence.
There’s no way I’m telling her about Santa now.