It is easy for me to say that September 11, 2001 was one of the most profound days of my life. I remember getting up that morning to get ready for work and turning on the news. I lived in California at the time and it was really early in the morning. I watched as The Today Show hosts talked about what seemed to be a tragic accident in which an airplane crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I then watched live as the second plane hit and knew everything was somehow different now. I instantly knew that something was very wrong.
My oldest son was only 19 months old on that day and I remember not wanting to drop him off at daycare. I wanted to take him back home with me and crawl into bed and hope that it was all a nightmare.
How do you explain a day like that to a young child? How do you explain such evil to anyone?
When Austin was six years old, his school was going to celebrate “Patriot Day” which prompted our conversation. It was the conversation I had been preparing for, yet dreading for 5 years.
Austin: Mom, what is National Patriot Day?
Me: Well, it is a day to remember what it is to be an American and to honor some special people.
Austin: So is it like the 4th of July?
Me: Sort of. The 4th of July is to celebrate our country's birthday.
Austin: Oh, so what people do we honor on patriot day?
Me (realizing I need to just tell him about 9/11 before he hears it on the news and gets confused): Well, back on September 11, 2001 something happened. You were just a baby so you don't remember it. Some very bad men took over some airplanes.
Austin: What do you mean, took over?
Me: They took control of the planes away from the pilots and started to fly them by themselves.
Me: Those bad men then crashed the planes into two buildings in New York called the World Trade Center. They also crashed one into a building in Washington and another one crashed into a field.
Austin: Why would they do that?
Me (tears coming to my eyes): I don't know Austin. I wish I did know. See these people don't like America and they wanted to hurt us. The two towers fell down and a lot of people on the planes and in the buildings died. It was a very, very sad day.
Austin: So Patriot day is about honoring those people?
Me: Yes, it is about honoring those people and their families.
Austin: Then I guess I better pray for their families on Patriot day. I bet they miss them.
Me (about to completely lose it): I think that would be a very nice thing.