I came out of the shower a few nights ago to find my son in my bedroom, riveted to the television. I opened my mouth to ask what he was watching, but as soon as I saw what was on the screen, I knew immediately. We all know the picture. It's the backlit image of the three mangled pieces of the World Trade Center jutting up from the remains of the building like crazy candles on a birthday cake. He looked at me and said, "Mama, did you know that the terrorists practiced cutting the necks of camels so they would know how to kill the pilots?"
Major. Parenting. Fail.
Or was it? My first instinct was to tell him to turn off the TV and go to bed. I didn't want him to know the terrifyingly brutal details behind that horrible day. An eleven-year-old boy doesn't need to know that Satan's minions planned to slit the throat of an innocent passenger on each plane and leave them bleeding, dying as a warning to keep the others at bay. I didn't want him to see the devastating images of desperate people jumping to their deaths from the windows of the World Trade Center. Then, he told me that he had been watching the National Geographic channel's series on 9/11 all week. "It's history, Mama. I need to see this." Against what my heart was telling me, I reluctantly agreed.
I sat down with him, and we watched together as rescue workers pulled bloody victims from the Pentagon. He was stunned to learn that the terrorists lived among us and even passed through our state as they traveled around the country preparing for their demonic deed. He asked seemingly simple questions that are still difficult to answer. "Why didn't anyone find their weapons before they got on the plane?" "Why would they want to crash into buildings that just had businesses in them?" "Why did they do this, knowing they were going to die, too?" The question that hit me the hardest was, "The people on the planes didn't have a chance, did they?"
We talked later about where we were when it happened and how it has changed our lives and the country as a whole. He doesn't seem to be any more afraid now than he was before he learned the awful truth of that day. True to his problem-solving nature, he kept trying to figure out ways the victims could have survived because the magnitude of the disaster was just too huge for his brain to comprehend. Slowly, he is understanding what this day meant to our nation.
I'm sure there are plenty of other parents out there ready to shame me for letting my son see the gory images and hear the heart-wrenching sound bytes that are familiar to us but new for him. I felt like he was ready to hear the whole story. So, now he knows, and I'm okay with that.