Yesterday, Bethany came home from school and told me all about the video she had seen in her American History class about 9/11. She described watching the planes hit the Twin Towers and the people jumping to their deaths from the upper floors, and how terribly sad it made her feel. Then she said something that shocked me. She said, "I've never seen a lot of that before." In my kindest, most loving Mom voice (...ahem...), I replied, "What are you talking about? Of course you have!" And she said, "No, I really haven't!"
That got me to thinking. How had she not seen the horrific news footage from that day? It's not like she doesn't know about what happened on 9/11. Yesterday afternoon we talked about how she remembered, even as a first grader, the reactions of the teachers in her school that day...the white faces, whispering voices, and teary eyes. She's grown up all her life in the shadow of that day, as all of our children have.
But as I thought last night about what she said about not having seen that footage before, I realized why that was probably true. At the time of 9/11, Hannah was in fourth grade, and she was such a worrier. She had a lot of rather irrational fears, and I knew that if she saw the chaos and terror pouring into our living room through the TV screen, she would be convinced that the next airplane was going to come down on Briarwood Drive in El Dorado. So we very consciously chose to limit our own viewing of the tragic events of that time until after the girls went to bed every night. We talked with them about what was happening in our nation, we prayed together about it, but we intentionally chose not to inundate them with the terrifying visual images.
And then, a couple of weeks after the attacks, TV stations stopped showing the most horrific images of that day. I'm not sure exactly why, but a variety of reasons were given ... they incited violence against Muslims, they caused too much pain to the victims' families, they were too graphic, etc. It apparently become politically incorrect to show footage of airplanes intentionally crashing into buildings.
So I guess that's how my daughter managed to reach the age of sixteen without the horrific images of 9/11 burned into her psyche. I'm not entirely sure that that's a good thing, though. I'm glad she's being exposed to them now, and I'm sure we'll watch some of the tenth anniversary commemorations together this weekend. I believe it's crucial that none of us ever forgets what happened that day, and that the blessings of freedom and liberty we enjoy in this country are just that .... blessings from God, which are not guaranteed for tomorrow.
Well, I almost forgot that I started writing this as a "Ten on the Tenth" post. So, let me close by sharing ten of my personal memories of 9/11.
1. First of all, the obligatory "Where I Was On 9/11": I was working as a speech-pathologist at Norman Junior High School in Crossett, Arkansas. When the first plane hit, word got around the school quickly, and classrooms with TVs in them became very popular. Everyone thought it was a horrible accident.
2. I remember the incredulity I felt when the second plane hit ... How could the same accident happen twice? And then the growing awareness that it was not an accident.
3. Then there was the news of the planes hitting the Pentagon and going down in Pennsylvania. By this point, of course, everyone knew these were not accidents, but the alternative was still just too horrifying to grasp.
4. I remember how every teacher's face had the same look of shock, nausea, horror, disbelief. We were the adults in a building full of junior high students ... we had to hold it together and appear unshaken in the midst of a situation like none of us had ever encountered before.
5. I remember standing in a classroom door with my mouth hanging open watching the buildings fall. All I could think about were all those rescue workers and fire fighters who had run into those buildings to save everyone from the fire. What had happened to them? I could not process the fact that I had just witnessed thousands of people dying on live television.
6. When my work day finally ended, I could not wait to pick my girls up from school and hold them close. They knew something was up, especially Hannah, mainly because of their teachers' reactions. We spent a lot of time that evening talking and hugging. I remember that she had soccer practice that evening, and surprisingly, it was not canceled. We went to the practice, and I couldn't help glancing up at the sky every few minutes to check for rogue airplanes. (Maybe Hannah wasn't the only worrier in the family!) All flights had already been grounded by this time, though, and there wasn't a plane in the sky, which was also rather eerie.
7. I remember what a strange feeling it was that nobody knew where the president, vice president, or leaders of Congress were. There were all in separate "Undisclosed Locations." I do remember hanging on George W. Bush's every word when he finally did appear on television from who knows where to reassure all of us frightened Americans that we were going to be okay.
8. I remember the overwhelming displays of national pride that appeared everywhere in the days after 9/11. There were American flags everywhere...on cars, on mailboxes, in windows, on businesses...literally everywhere! Everyone was proud to be an American and wanted the world to know it.
9. I remember how all the TV stations ceased their regular programming for several days and either went silent in respect for the thousands of lives lost, or dedicated their airwaves to coverage of the 9/11 events. Even the irreverent late-night comedians went dark for several days.
10. I remember how we were no longer Republicans and Democrats or conservatives and liberals. We were Americans. We were united as one against a common enemy. Churches were filled to overflowing, people gave generously of their possessions and even of their own blood, and strangers extended kindness to one another. I remember wondering how long it would last.
Several months after 9/11, I was going through some of Hannah's stuff in her room and throwing away trash. I ran across a piece of paper that caught my eye. It was a paper from her Sunday School class, and across the top, the teacher had asked the kids to write how they felt about what had happened on 9/11. Hannah had written several sentences about what happened that day, and then closed by saying, "At first I was really scared, but my Mom told me that God was in control, and then I wasn't scared anymore."
I can still remember how I felt when I read what she had written that day. I was pleased that she had so easily accepted that God was in control, and that that knowledge had provided comfort to her. Little did I know that seven years later, she would be diagnosed with cancer, and would have to cling to God's sovereignty with all she had in her. I really believe that the events of 9/11 may have been her first step in learning to trust Him when faced with her own personal 9/11 in February of 2008.