11 September 2012

When Young Children Ask about 9/11:

It is the anniversary of 9/11 — an event that resonated with me ages– as it did for everyone else in the world.  (I do not think it will ever fully recede from my awareness.)  For years afterward, it was almost as if my consciousness hung suspended waiting for the next, dire, unimaginably horrible thing to happen . . . . and then gradually, even as the events unfolded in unforeseen ways — the US marching to war in Iraq, and then in Afghanistan . .  . and Canada going to war also in Afghanistan — the next gruesome, unknown thing did NOT happen.  And so life my continued on and I stopped, ever so gradually and imperceptibly, holding my metaphorical breath.  Our family grew, my career advanced, more students were taught, more words were written and read. . . .

And now, when my young sons ask about that day, all I can say is that it  was  remarkable; a day I will never forget.  I try to capture the stony presence it has in my heart by telling them that it rocked me and others fundamentally and, that it likely changed history in a manner that I cannot conceive.

They have reached an age, where the macabre simultaneously draws and repels them.  Curious, they want to know more, turning their gaze toward the firey scene on the TV when the remote pauses momentarily on a commemorative broadcast before we sweep past onto something more prosaic.   One of them cries out “No, no,” just as the other pleads, “But I wanted to watch. . . ”  Despotically clicking the remote, I tell them that when they are older, I will let them watch the film footage and documentaries from that day.  More silently, I wonder when I should reveal this aspect of our history and ourselves to them.  At what point, I ponder, should they become versed in the cruelties and sufferings that is a part of  our nature — and that this day so astonishingly revealed to us?

I still remain unsure of the meaning of the simple and horrific violence that occurred on 11 September 2001.  And I cannot begin to adequately explain, to an unfolding and still unknowing generation, the source of the fire and killings and, of the origins of human hatred.  And yet I understand that such enmity burns within all of us, just as surely as love does, and that we must guard against the former and tenderly stoke the timid flames of the latter.

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