Four years ago today I was awakened by a phone call from my mother. “Turn on the TV,” she said. “A plane crashed into one of the twin towers in New York.”
For the next hour or so, I sat in front of the television, 3,000 miles away from death and destruction, with a numbing sense that our lives would never be the same. I didn’t cry – not that day – it was too surreal to cry. But I mourned for the loss of lives and the families and friends they left behind, I mourned for the city that I had lived in for six years, and I mourned for the loss of innocence that inevitably arises from such a tragedy.
I wasn’t a parent then. I didn’t yet have to think about how to explain how such hatred and violence can occur in the same world that let’s us experience the beauty of a rainbow after a summer shower, the aroma of freshly baked cookies on a cold winter’s day, or the soft underside of a lazy kitty’s belly. I’m not sure what I would have said then, had I been a parent. It caught me off guard and I’m not sure I would have had an explanation. But I’ve had some time to think about it. I know that someday I’m going to have to discuss how such atrocities can happen. I use the word “discuss” because I’m not sure there is an “explanation.” At least not one that could ever truly make sense.
Yes, September 11, 2001 changed me. I am now keenly aware of the role I will have to play in the development of my children. I am raising my children in a world that is far more complex than anything I experienced as a child and they will have to face issues that I never dreamed of as I was growing up. I have written before of how I want to teach my children ways to look at these challenges and choose to act in a way that will foster love and not hatred. That will promote peace and not war. That will provide understanding and not ignorance. These skills are becoming more and more important. No longer do our actions just affect those immediately around us. No, the world is a smaller place and our actions have the power to produce tidal waves across the world rather than just ripples across a pond.
I have saved newspaper clippings and books that detail the events of 9/11. I hope someday to share these with Jonathan and Swee’Pea. I want them to see what happened. But as much as I want them to understand the events that happened that day, I also want them to see the outpouring of love and compassion that erupted from this horrific event. Strangers helping strangers down long flights of stairs in total darkness, children donating their piggy banks to help in the recovery of a nation, and parents hugging those children close and telling them they are loved and they are safe.
My hope for my children is for them to be a difference maker. And I don’t mean that in a grand, global sort of way – for we can all make a difference in the lives that we touch. But in order to do that, we have to make the effort! We have to reach out and touch those around us. We have to get to know our neighbors first and the rest of the world second. And while it’s natural to gravitate to those who are most like you (those that look like you, talk like you or think like you), perhaps it’s more important to get to know those who are least like you. Stretch beyond what is comfortable and strive to know your world. Because I believe that it’s hard to hate those that you have taken the time and interest to know and understand.
I pray for those who lost their lives on 9/11 but I also pray that my children will grow up in a world that grows closer together rather than farther apart. If it has to start somewhere, let it start with them. Let it start with me.
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