Disqus

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11

Sorry but it is a worthy subject. 

There are many things that struck me that day - my mother calling me because she knew my husband was out of the country and was worried he was on a plane, my first viewing on the tv when I fell to my knees (sounds dramatic but that's how hard it struck me), being worried sick all day for my husband's cousins who worked in and around the Twin Towers (all got out safely but a friend of my husband's from high school's pregnant sister-in-law did not) and one school memory.

My younger son was going to Whittier and I woke him up to trying to explain what happened and why it might change his day at school.  I didn't show him the footage.  Our principal at the time was Greg Imel, now at Bailey-Gatzert, who is one of our best principals.  I got my son to school and noticed the flag was not a half-mast.  I saw my son off and went to Greg and demanded he put the flag at half-mast.  He said he hadn't hear from Central.  I was not happy and told him he shouldn't wait. 

Greg is a very calm guy and he just looked at me and said, "It's going to be okay."  And he was right.  Putting the flag at half-mast wasn't going to change anything.  I just wanted to do something because I felt helpless.   So I went home and baked a cake and took it to my nearest fire station.  You do what you can.

I was listening to the radio a few days ago and there was a story about how the students in high school now were just 4, 5, 6 when this happened and how were teachers going to teach about it. 

Apparently, it some states, they just don't even try (mostly because they are worried about religion coming into the discussion and having arguments).  I think avoiding the subject is wrong.  My son told me he felt like US history in high school ended at WWII mostly because they don't know how to discuss the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Gulf wars and now 9/11. 

Over at the Stranger Slog, there was some discussion and one comment was, "Again? How long do we keep bringing this up?"  Kind of took my breath away because it's almost like saying why talk about Pearl Harbor?  Whether we like it or not, these events fundamentally changed how we act and go about our business in this country.  

It's our history and we better figure out what we tell the children. 

12 comments:

Sahila said...

perhaps the reason most things post WW2 are not mentioned in schools is that its hard to explain the ethics and values and implementation of American foreign policy over the years...

I dont know if history teachers would be comfortable with explaining, for example, that there is evidence to suggest that both the US and England knew that the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbour and let it happen anyway, as it was the only way to get isolationist America into the war (and thus out of the Depression)...

And here's another perspective that I guess would be controversial to teach:

9/11: Does Evil Exist?

seattle citizen said...

How can we NOT bring it up?
...
...
...Growing up in the suburbs of that great city, I became educated on its streets (not so much in my suburban school) about its diversity of people, of ways of living, of art, of business...
I moved west at seventeen in search of bigger skies, perhaps, but as I saw the rest of the world my appreciation of New York City grew and grew: How COULD this towering metropolis, with its galleries and ghettoes, its Park Avenue apartments and walk-up tenements, with its bankers, buskers and broke, its Italians, Polish, Irish, Hasidim, Puerto Rican, Catholic, Muslim, Scottish...How could this city continue? Why does it still live, I've asked myself for decades. It's impossible: It must surely tumble into the harbor, slide off the rock and sink under its own density, industry, its sheer biomass of diverse and divergent and delighted people clammoring about their daily lives in the Five Burroughs.

Twenty five years I wondered about that, about the miracle of New York's continued existence. Then came a day when I was shown the answer. Then came September 11th, 2011, and I saw film on TV of people dusty, dazed...some dying or dead, rest their souls...people all over that city regrouping, within hours pulling things back together, finding the missing, mourning the lost, sweeping the rubble out of the streets.

What else COULD the people of New York do? What else can any of us do, but sweep up and keep going, keep working and playing and struggling and resting...loving and losing, wondering and weeping...

THAT was my answer, twenty five years after I'd first wondered about the incongruity (it's "inconceivable!")of New York's teeming and thriving and thrusting centuries: New York is a result of those very best aspects of human natures, the need to commune to conduct life and business, and the need to love. New York isn't inconcievable, it's inevitable. We create such places because we have to as people and we will always sweep up and move on.

Thank you, New York, for your existence and for the people that are your heart. You taught me many things.

Kelly said...

Oh SC, you made me cry. Thank you for these words, and all your many words over the years I've been reading this blog. You are one of my favorite posters here.

seattleite via new york said...

Please don't apologize for posting about this. Breaks my heart that others do not think it is a worthy subject and want to know how long we are going to bring it up.

-A Seattleite now and for over a decade, a New Yorker for a lifetime.

seattle citizen said...

@Kelly -
(blush) thanks...I'm lifted by your kind words.

Sahila said...

Life Imitates Art... 9/11 State of the Nation

Anonymous said...

I'm really glad that the this anniversary is not a school day. It could be a great teaching moment - and, just like what has happened in the big people world, it would have probably been turned into a bunch of drums being beat with bibles wrapped in flags.
how many teachers would have the time to present to pre-adults the different pictures of the adult responses, and that there were plenty of responses other than the dominant ones presented of drooling ranting jingoistic adults?

billions live in complete squalor around the world, and I don't think perpetuating squalor helps to mitigate kookiness. with large populations of humans, there will always be kookiness and nuttiness and being a jerk and being a killer.

if the next 10 are as bad as the last 10, we'll be living in Blade Runner for the 20th.

AnonToday

StepJ said...

For me, 9/11 is an epic sort of pay it forward remembrance.

Won’t delve into the boring details, but for the first time before or since our family was scattered among many countries around the globe.

All of us experienced empathy, caring, compassion and comfort as we felt alone, uncertain and a bit scared to be in a country other than our own. Tears were shed for our National grief; extraordinary efforts were made by individuals, city governments, countries, and even corporations to be comforting to a fellow human in the midst of tragedy.

No one tried to explain or disdain via nationality, religion or politics. The human to human connection superseded language and all of the rest.

When our children are old enough, this is the message we will share and hope they will hold true as a remembrance of this day.

Thank you to the citizens and government of Vancouver, B.C., Province of British Columbia, and country of Canada.
Thank you to the citizens and government of French Polynesia.
Thank you to the citizens of Auckland, New Zealand.
Thank you to the citizens, government, and corporation of Qantas Airlines, Country of Australia.

With opportunity we will pay your gracious and genuine help to those in need forward.

Patrick said...

Recent events are not taught in history because they aren't history yet. All the people involved need their chance to retire and publish their memoirs, classified documents become declassified, and develop perspective about what happened and what the results were.

CCM said...

Our kids are middle school age now - so they were toddlers on 9/11.

They know the general idea of what happened - but really don't know a lot of the details. We haven't discussed it with them at length, and they have received little if any information at school.

We do think its important that they understand the impact that 9/11 had on America and how current events continue to be heavily impacted by what our reactions were to that day.

However, watching coverage of the event yesterday proved too much for me - as I broke down in tears once again watching the second plane hit World Trade Center 2. Also not helpful as people were freaking out at the "jumpers" from the buildings - really scared my daughter so we turned it off.

We need to strike a balance between "remembering" and "reliving" so we can have an intelligent conversation about how it will continue to impact their lives moving forward.

Still working on that.

Lori said...

My daughter was not yet born in 2001. She was born in 2003, and one of my most vivid memories from my pregnancy was sitting in our family room watching CNN in horror as the "Shock and Awe" campaign began in Iraq. I wondered and worried what the future held for my child, and here we are 8 years later, and she has never known her country when it wasn't at war. I can't help but wonder how that affects her views and opinions of the world.

For us, the need to discuss 9/11 has arisen numerous times, mostly related to travel. How do you explain when your child asks why we take our shoes off at the airport, or why TSA is confiscating her beloved snow globe, or why, just recently, TSA pulled her aside "randomly" at Newark airport for an "in-depth" screen that involved testing her fingers for explosives residue?

But we do the best we can to explain in simple terms without making her afraid of the world around her. My best analogy is that the people responsible for 9/11 were angry at our government but chose an inappropriate way to deal with that anger, sort of like how sometimes little kids get angry and hit someone or pull someone's hair. We always taught our child that it's okay to be angry, but you can't use that anger to hurt other people. Fortunately, most grown ups know that and most grown ups aren't going to intentionally hurt other people like happened on 9/11. I don't know if that made sense to her or not, but it was the best I've been able to do, trying to keep the discussion at a "macro" level.

We happened to be in Oslo this summer, not long after the attack there. We were once again confronted with trying to explain an act of terrorism to our child. We also visited the Nobel Peace Center while there, which was a highlight of the trip for me personally. There, we were reminded of so many people in the last century who have effected change peacefully. So after visiting "ground zero" in Oslo, we talked about what we thought terrorists hoped to accomplish with their actions, how it seems unlikely that they would effect change the same way that someone like Martin Luther King ultimately did, and how even though there are instances of horrific events occurring around the world, they are still rare, and we cannot let fear keep us from living.

One last thought. One of the most touching things that I heard in Norway is that the country is collecting all of the flowers that have been left, and are still being left, at churches in every city so that they can compost them for use in a memorial garden that is being planned. I can't explain why exactly, but this struck me as a beautiful and appropriate reaction. It was incredibly difficult to see the memorials made for the children who were killed that day, and I did try to move us along quickly so my daughter wouldn't focus too much on them. But if I had had access to flowers that day, I would have left some too, particularly knowing that I would have been contributing to their planned "living" memorial.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"We need to strike a balance between "remembering" and "reliving" so we can have an intelligent conversation about how it will continue to impact their lives moving forward."

Very wise words.