Sunday, September 11, 2011

Haven't forgotten.

For several years now I have managed to dodge talk about September 11 with Gavin. For the last three school years, in fact, I've held my breath hoping that nothing would be said in front of him that would cause me to have to explain it in any way, shape, or form.

That changed May 2 with the death of Osama Bin Laden. Between the screaming headlines and the news media broadcasting alternating clips of celebrating Americans and raw footage from the compound, there wasn't much dodging possible.

"He looks like one of the thuggies in my Lego Indiana Jones, mom," he announced, looking at the front page of the Tribune-Review.

"I suppose he does," I said.

"Why did we kill him?"

"He's a bad guy," I replied, hoping that he would change the subject.

"What did he do?"

My throat tightened and I couldn't think of what to say to an eight-year-old to explain any of it. He convinced men to hijack four airplanes full of innocent people and slam them into buildings full of even more innocent people all in the name of his personal, twisted version of a jihad. He aimed at symbolic locations in effort to twist the knife as deeply as possible. He and his followers supposedly cheered when the towers fell.

"He had people steal airplanes and fly them into buildings."

Please stop asking questions, honey. I can't answer any more without wanting to cry because I remember it and I don't want you to know what I know about how horrible men can be when they...

"He looks like one of those thuggies on the Wii game."

Wii! Maybe he'll change the subject.

"How did he kill all those people?"

Oh God.

"There were people in the buildings that the planes hit."

Please stop, Gavin. Don't ask me about the airplanes and if there were people on them. Don't connect the fact that we're flying when we go on vacation this year.

"Oh. I thought maybe he had a big sword like the thuggies."

In truth, Osama's death made September 11, 2011, a bit easier. Not much, but a bit.

We had "the September 11th talk" this past weekend. We watched a few televised specials together. We talked a little bit about what happened that day. His questions were basic, factual, and easy enough to answer. After watching the videos of the planes hitting the towers, Gavin was more interested in how the towers fell than anything. He was fascinated by the physics of it all, which was obvious as he talked about how the towers would fall when hit at different levels and how he thought they would fall more like dominoes.

They covered September 11th in class, and it was done well. Sterile. Basic. Non-emotionally scarring. Ten years after, it's easier to talk about -- particularly when the students weren't even alive at the time. Past history, things that happened before one was born, is much more elusive. Too abstract. Nine-eleven to Gavin is Pearl Harbor to me. We didn't live it, but we know we should be sad about it.

There's not much to say, ten years later. I still cry, or want to cry, when I talk about that day. I still remember the first words I heard as I tuned the radio in. I still don't understand a damn thing. I still don't know how to explain hatred to an eight-year-old.

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