Much like when my grandmother can remember every detail of the day JFK was shot, and for my mother, the day of the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, September 11th will always be a day frozen in time for me. And it will always feel like it was just yesterday. It was an unseasonably early, blue sky, no humidity kind of September day. The kind that makes you ache for fall. And from what I later gathered, it was like that much across the country – as eery and rare as that sounds. I had just thrown myself into my desk in my Senior English Lit class before the tardy bell rang – it was first on my schedule that day. The classroom was off the main hallway, down and around a corner closer to the gym. We weren’t really connected to other classes and we had NO IDEA what was going on until some classmates in the PE class popped in and asked our teacher if she had heard about the plane crash into the World Trade Center in NYC–she had not. We followed them into the gym where they had the TV on.
We were in shock.
What a terrible accident!
We watched a bit, went back to our classroom then went back to the TV just in time to see the second plane hit.
What?! We all just seemed to have froze and stared at each other. What was that?! What was happening?! What is going on?
We were in a different kind of shock now.
The rest of the morning we went from period to period watching TV. Everyone was silent and just… floored. We really couldn’t grasp the magnitude of what was happening. When school let out that day, I had several missed calls and texts from my friends at college asking me if I had seen what happened. I called my mom and she advised me to fill up my gas tank and get home ASAP. This was a terrorist attack. They could be anywhere, and could be striking anywhere. Just get gas because oil prices are going to rise and GET HOME. I had my little brother in my car, because we went to school together. We waited forever in line to get gas and on the drive home every radio station had the news on. He was 8 and I remember sitting at a light, rolling down the window, hearing everyone else in their cars listening to the same thing and him asking me what a terrorist was, and if they were coming to get him.
That is a day that I will NEVER FORGET.
Every year, I find myself watching specials & documentaries the week of the 9/11 anniversary, sitting on my couch and sobbing. I always watch the coverage on the day of, hearing the names called out and listening to the bell toll. I did not personally lose anyone in the attacks but my heart will always ache for those lost on that day. For me, I feel like this is the smallest yet most respectful tradition I can do as an American and a person.
Three years into being a mom, I am wanting to find ways to teach my three-year-old about 9/11 (which is known now as the National Day of Service & Remembrance/Patriot Day if you want to get technical). While I know he is nowhere near the age to fully grasp the horrific acts of that day, I do have a couple of traditions I want to start with him.
We are going to put our collection of flags out, listen to the names being called out, have him color a Patriot Day page, get out our flag craft, and do a random act of kindness. If he asks questions, I will try to answer them as much as I can, and as age-appropriate as possible. I want him to learn that remembering others after they’ve been taken from us is the best way to honor them and never forget them. The thing I want to emphasize to him the most is how great this country is. How the greatness of this country can be measured by the hearts of its people and how they always pull together during a horrific tragedy.
Here are links to ways you can teach your children about Patriot Day:
- Ways to talk to your children about 9/11
- Fact Sheet for Kids
- Patriot Day Coloring & Writing Page
“Remember the Hours after September 11th, when we came together as one … It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.”
-Sen. John Kerry