10 years. I was 17, turning 18 the 12th. Now, as a mom to four sons - I allowed my oldest, who turns 8 in two weeks to watch the news footage and personal videos of the horrific acts that day. I made kiddie coffee, something I wanted to share with him at the right moment that my Pappy let me have when I was 8. (About a teaspoon of coffee in milk and sugar.) I made us cinnamon rolls and we curled up on the couch together to begin watching. The others were asleep.
I was prepared, but still flubbed the words to explain "Why did they attack us?". As I started to explain, I realized that my wording was leading him to think all Muslims were bad. I had to clarify further the definition of terrorists and extremists and that there are good Muslims out there. He had many questions. I answered them as unemotionally as possible, but I teared up when they showed the jumpers. I tried to convey their feelings when he asked why they would jump to their death - noting that if they knew they would die, it's better to jump and die quick than to burn alive. He said "Mommy, I'd jump too.".
(More after the jump)
I know he won't really grasp the full effect of all this. I tried to tell him about what the World Trade Center meant as a symbol of America and why some people hate us. I told him that some extremists think they can only get to Heaven if they kill everyone not like them, especially Americans where we have so many freedoms and women and children as equal to men. He doesn't understand religion.
He asked why it would hurt our money, we can just make more. I tried to explain that building stood as a symbol of the most high powered, expensive offices and companies that handled our money and there were entire sections of Port Authority and security trying to keep them safe. He doesn't understand economics.
He asked why they didn't run away when the first plane hit. I told him about the other accidents and how it was so improbable, so unthinkable that a Boeing could be stolen that people thought it was another plane. He watched videos of the second plane hit. He asked why they didn't run then? They weren't showing people really running fast yet. I told him, "No one put all the dots together fast enough. People were always told these towers couldn't be taken down by planes." He replied, "So they just thought it was a big fire?" I nodded.
When the first tower began to crumble, the shock in his face made me start to believe he was finally getting it. Some starting running. He said, "I bet that made them all start to run". The next frame was people frantically running away. He saw the cloud of dust coming over the people. He then saw the second come down, and a simple, "Whoa." He asked if there were people inside still. I said yes, many were firefighters, police, ambulances trying to help other people out and none of them made it.
Then the final images splashed across the screen. A lot of dust had cleared and there was some blood on some of the debris and a pile of twisted metal, hunks of concrete, and one thing I couldn't tell him that was running in my head - body parts. There wasn't anything graphic to show them, but we know now, that most of them had been reduced to fragments of a human in the tragedy. He said, "I bet it takes them a lot of days to clean that up." I told him it took years.
He did grasp the attack on the Pentagon because I explained it is the heart of our military, the men and women who commanded Daddy and Grandpa. He said, "They tried to kill the big guys of the military. If they'd have killed our military bosses, we couldn't go to war and get them.". Sometimes, simplicity is so true and endearing.
I told him of the heroics of those in Pennsylvania. At first, he asked "Why would they crash the plane?" I explained that it was because they knew, just like the jumpers, that they wouldn't live. If they let the plane keep going, they would die anyway and it could kill more hitting a building. They took the fate given to them and stopped other people from being killed. "I think I'd do that too. They weren't very nice."
He asked to go to play, I wanted him to wait a minute and watch the first parts of the Memorial on TV and show him what is rising out of the ashes.
He asked, "Is that why we killed that Bin Baden guy?" I was caught a bit off guard. I'd prepared to talk about it after - but I wasn't aware that he was really aware of who he was. I suppose, he watched the news right along with me and heard my husband and I talking about him. I said it was a lot of it. He's too young for the politicized/romanticized versions of the other parts of it all.
He asked to go to his room afterward. I said of course, and about 10 minutes later, he came back with this:
He understands now, why Daddy had to deploy to help protect us and get those who attacked us. He understands now, why Grandpa is going back in one month for a year for yet another deployment to help Afghans rebuild and help Afghani women build businesses supporting our troops.
When he is older, he will start to understand the impact on everything in our nation.