About a month ago, I started freaking out that my daughter would be starting 1st Grade right around the same time as the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Would they talk about it at school? Would it be weird for her to hear about it from someone other than me and her dad? What if the person telling her about it has political views different from mine? What if she hears about it from some misinformed kid? The list goes on and on, and the decision was clear: it was time to tell her what happened that day.
But how? It’s not like she needs to hear the details of the day, like when I was walking to work and looked up at the sound of a distant crash to see a fireball shooting out of a skyscraper. Or frantically trying to reach my husband to make sure he wasn’t already on the way down to his Tribeca office. Or watching the second plane hit and the towers fall from my office window in Soho. Or making my way back uptown among people covered in dust, wondering what was happening to the world.
No, at six she just needs the basics with a bit of context.
The first opportunity presented itself with Hurricane Irene. After we made some preparations in the form of hastily-collected food, water, flashlights, and candles, the storm passed by us without inflicting damage on our neighborhood. Perfect segue into “Hey, there are some things you can prepare for and some things you can’t.” But then we decided one hurricane is plenty to process for a six-year-old.
Then on one of our end of summer vacation days we rode the Staten Island Ferry together. Should I tell her about the changed landscape of downtown Manhattan? I pointed out the new skyscraper going up, but it was too nice a day to delve deeper. I didn’t want to put a downer on our trip to the Staten Island Children’s Museum.
What if we made a trip specifically to someplace that provided context? The 9/11 site itself is still just a giant construction site at this point, so I thought about taking her to the New York City Fire Museum with its permanent 9/11 installation. But then she got sick and we didn’t go.
I’ve been leaving my 9/11 issue of New York magazine out in plain site (a great issue, by the way) in hopes that she’ll ask about it. No dice.
Now we’ve decided to just let it ride, and only talk about 9/11 if she asks about it. There are so many kids born after 9/11. How did your children learn of 9/11? How old were they? Any advice to offer us chickens?