Ten years ago a few days from now, I seriously wondered if we'd even be here now, and what we'd be thinking. It felt like the attacks changed everything–everything!–and that surely the whole world would be different.
Maybe it is, and I just don't realize it.
From my view, it pretty much looks the same, except that I now can't bring liquids from home on a plane and I have to take my shoes off at the airport. But the rest of it, well, really really horrible things are still happening, and really really good things are still happening, and we're participating in them all, sometimes willingly and sometimes without even realizing it.
But this weekend is special, because people are going to be remembering the attacks more than we all usually do. Living in NYC until two months ago was enough, especially since the church I went to ten years ago was always under threat of attack, and the church I went to my last few years in NYC was right next to where the towers used to be.
The upside of being reminded of it on a weekly basis is that I do know what to say to my kids about 9/11. I've seen a few people wondering and talking about not knowing how to talk to their kids about it, because their kids are going to be hearing all about the anniversary.
There are two things I've come to that are important to say:
1. Some people are bad, and they hurt people. I think it's really important for kids to know that this wasn't an accident, that bad people deliberately wanted to and did hurt people. This isn't going to scare your kids, really–think about how much time they already spend working out the idea of "bad guys" and scary monsters, etc. Kids get the concept of bad vs. good. But that leads us into
2. Look for the helpers. The day it happened, we were already thinking about Mister Rogers, and his saying that "when bad things happen, look for the helpers." Good people will always help. Think about how many people rushed in to help, gave blood, looked for people, put up fliers, volunteered in zillions of ways, prayed, cried, listened. Think about how many of us are still helping now. Yes, bad people do bad things, but good people pick up the pieces and help.
Those two things have come together, for me, in the following language about 9/11:
"Some bad people who wanted to hurt people crashed planes into some tall buildings. Some people died, but a lot of people helped."
More detail for bigger kids. But that's still it.
The two things I'm going to do this weekend to remember 9/11 are reread Ellis Avery's amazing book The Smoke Week: Sept. 11-20, 2001, and give a donation to Partners in Health to help the people of Haiti (who are still in major trouble). If you have contact info to give to help the victims of the fires in Texas, could you post in the comments?
What are you telling your kids? What are you telling YOURSELF? (I still haven't put all the pieces together in my head.) What are you going to do, if anything, to remember this day and this decade?