Sunday, September 11, 2011

Because I thought he needed to know...

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.


  1. I think you did a perfect job. Actually, 11 (and clearly ready) seems like the time. And you were with him the whole way -- couldn't ask for a better mom.

  2. We must remember and learn and say never again. You are a beautiful parent.

  3. I wish my child had heard about it this way- she learned it that day at school- I was teaching and facing an open house. We were not allowed to leave. Winthrop did not close and her dad had to pick her up and take her back to hang out in his office-while we dealt with everyone else's child- our child was relatively alone. Our night rounded out with our friend Pete who was stranded in Charleston- wanting to get home to his family in Raleigh. A friend took him to Columbia and another to Rock Hill- at 3:00 in the morning we met up with a truck driver who took him home to his wife and kids. I hope Meg will take away the message that for one night we all pulled together- teachers, truck drivers - and regular guys who just wanted to get home to their families

  4. I think you handled it perfectly. I'm currently trying to decide how to broach the subject with my son. He is 8, and has autism (high functioning). I have kept him away from it thus far, as he develops phobias everytime there is a natural disaster, so I can only imagine what a man-made disaster borne of evil would do to him.

    BUt I realise I need to sit down. He needs to hear it from me, the way he learns most things of magnitude from me, before he learns it from the news or from school.

    I think you did a wonderful job. Bless him for caring so much and being prepared to brave up to facing such a horrible moment in history.

    (New to your blog - we just 'met' on FB). :D

  5. You are an awesome mom! I applaud you. ( and miss you by the way)

  6. No chastising here. You handled it beautifully. Two of my boys are old enough to remember it for themselves. My 11-yr old has a different view of it, because it's a story that's been told to him, rather than a memory of his own.

    But you're right. They need to know.

  7. Great job! My first instinct would have been to protect him, but what you did was so much better. You shared the experience with him which is exactly what we are supposed to do as parents--prepare our kids, rather than always protect them and leave them unprepared.

  8. Again, I couldn't agree more! If I can feel comfortable telling the kids I take care of, the answers to their questions I will. Around the anniversary this year their second oldest Allyson asked me TONS of questions, and I told her all I knew. She didn't seem scared, she did seem sad about what happened, but she was more curious than anything. It was hardest when she asked me why anyone would hate other people so much...It broke my heart to hear it from the mouth of a babe, but I felt good that she heard the truth from me rather than rumors, and I even corrected a few things she had wrong. I think if you as a parent feel your child is prepared for the truth, they deserve to know. Kudos to you for taking the hard step and opening up. :)

  9. Very well done.

    >> 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. << Those parents need to give their collective heads a shake.


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