Viewing 9/11 Through a Child’s Eyes

 

Yesterday walking in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, I noticed a crowd of people standing around what I thought was an art installation at first. As I got closer to the mangled metal, I read what I immediately recognized as The Timeline: the exact minutes the planes hit the towers, and the exact minutes the towers went down. On the other side, a collection of names and birthdays, all with the same day of death. I realized I was standing in front of the Baltimore World Trade Center, and this was a memorial to the Trade Center in New York City.

My kids asked me if we were standing in front of a memorial to a war of some kind. We live outside of Washington D.C. and they see a lot of those. We all stand around talking about the history of the war, emotionally disconnected from its painful reality. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate and honor the sacrifice, I just don’t have a personal connection to anyone who died in conflicts that ended decades before my birth.

I never realized that’s how I stood in front of memorials until yesterday when I saw that disconnected look on the faces of my children. They were interested in the memorial, to learn about what had happened, but to them, it’s just history. They never heard the announcement go through their school’s PA system about the attack, they never snuck into the teacher’s lounge to watch the only TV in the building connected to network television. They never sat next to their teachers sobbing, watching as the towers crumbled down. They never spent the night calling all of their relatives living and working in New York City (and often in the Trade Center itself), trying to get through jammed phone lines, wondering if they were still alive. To them, the fall of the towers will always be history.

It made me think about how arbitrary time is, how events in the past can be perceived so radically differently over just the course of a generation. I remember my mother’s painful memories of Vietnam, my grandfather’s memories of the Second World War. We always say Never Forget when it comes to 9/11, but seeing my kids’ reaction to the memorial made me realize just how inevitable that forgetting will be.

Published in General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 12 comments.

  1. Western Chauvinist Member

    It wouldn’t have to be forgotten. We have video. It’s just been shoved down the memory hole.

    • #1
    • September 11, 2019, at 5:21 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Franco Member

    Why teaching history is important, and even then…

    • #2
    • September 11, 2019, at 5:45 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. Front Seat Cat Member

    Powerful observation and picture. You make an important point about history. It does become just something in books (not necessarily school books these days) or talked about by a relative (important), but if the history isn’t learned and known to new generations, it’s doomed to be repeated – God forbid. I believe that is more true today about past history, recent and not recent.

    • #3
    • September 11, 2019, at 6:21 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Vance Richards Member

    The middle school in my town would always take the kids to the 9/11 museum at ground zero. They just stopped doing that because it was too emotional 

    • #4
    • September 11, 2019, at 11:02 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Seawriter Member

    Years ago, when my kids were in grade school, I was occasionally asked to talk to one of their classes about the Shuttle program. This was in the last part of the 1980s. I often started the talk by asking “This is the difference between history and ancient history. History is all the stuff you remember that happened in the past. Ancient history is anything that happened before you were born.”

    I was talking about the start of the Shuttle Program. My sons’ classmates were all born after the first Shuttle launch. For them it was ancient history. Similarly 9-11 is now ancient history to everyone now in grades K-12 except for some high school seniors.

    • #5
    • September 11, 2019, at 1:02 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. SkipSul Moderator

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Years ago, when my kids were in grade school, I was occasionally asked to talk to one of their classes about the Shuttle program. This was in the last part of the 1980s. I often started the talk by asking “This is the difference between history and ancient history. History is all the stuff you remember that happened in the past. Ancient history is anything that happened before you were born.”

    I was talking about the start of the Shuttle Program. My sons’ classmates were all born after the first Shuttle launch. For them it was ancient history. Similarly 9-11 is now ancient history to everyone now in grades K-12 except for some high school seniors.

    It’s ancient history to the high school seniors too. My eldest is 18, just started college. She was 9 months old on 9/11, and has no memory of it at all.

    • #6
    • September 11, 2019, at 6:27 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Shauna Hunt Member

    I was pregnant with my first when 9/11 happened. Every year, I struggle with it. I didn’t personally lose anyone. It just felt like I did. I can’t even translate it’s importance to my children. My husband prefers to ignore it. He was teaching kindergarten at the time. It didn’t seem to impact him. I chalk a lot of those emotions up to being pregnant at the time.

     

    • #7
    • September 11, 2019, at 8:56 PM PDT
    • Like
  8. Stina Member

    This was the first year I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t remind my kids about December 7th, either. My grandfather was big on my remembering that date.

    This morning, I asked my son if he learned about it in school. He said yeah… planes flew into the world trade center.

    “Who flew the planes?”

    “I don’t know. They didn’t say.”

    There are other things I find more important at the moment than these two moments… in many ways, things that undergird the importance of those moments.

    Even though we have been at war with Afghanistan for 18 years, the conflict is so removed us and is not talked about. It is a point of confusion – no one really knows why we are there.

    But the silence on it gives this post-war glaze to society. We, as humans, have evolved past war. Many of the choices we make in trade, immigration, birth right citizenship, and other places elevate this idea that we are not in danger of war or conflict. If we are not in danger of war or conflict, than why place so much importance on these two events?

    • #8
    • September 12, 2019, at 6:43 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Western Chauvinist Member

    Stina (View Comment):

    This was the first year I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t remind my kids about December 7th, either. My grandfather was big on my remembering that date.

    This morning, I asked my son if he learned about it in school. He said yeah… planes flew into the world trade center.

    “Who flew the planes?”

    “I don’t know. They didn’t say.”

    There are other things I find more important at the moment than these two moments… in many ways, things that undergird the importance of those moments.

    Even though we have been at war with Afghanistan for 18 years, the conflict is so removed us and is not talked about. It is a point of confusion – no one really knows why we are there.

    But the silence on it gives this post-war glaze to society. We, as humans, have evolved past war. Many of the choices we make in trade, immigration, birth right citizenship, and other places elevate this idea that we are not in danger of war or conflict. If we are not in danger of war or conflict, than why place so much importance on these two events?

    Some planes did something…

    Shameful. My kids’ charter schools always observed 9/11 remembrances. The events are important to instill gratitude for those who came before and sacrificed so much.

    Edit: I’m not shaming you, Stina. I’m shaming our America-hating indoctrination education system.

    • #9
    • September 12, 2019, at 6:57 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. SkipSul Moderator

    Stina (View Comment):

    This was the first year I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t remind my kids about December 7th, either. My grandfather was big on my remembering that date.

    This morning, I asked my son if he learned about it in school. He said yeah… planes flew into the world trade center.

    “Who flew the planes?”

    “I don’t know. They didn’t say.”

    There are other things I find more important at the moment than these two moments… in many ways, things that undergird the importance of those moments.

    Even though we have been at war with Afghanistan for 18 years, the conflict is so removed us and is not talked about. It is a point of confusion – no one really knows why we are there.

    But the silence on it gives this post-war glaze to society. We, as humans, have evolved past war. Many of the choices we make in trade, immigration, birth right citizenship, and other places elevate this idea that we are not in danger of war or conflict. If we are not in danger of war or conflict, than why place so much importance on these two events?

    I was talking about this with friends several weeks ago, and I think part of the problem is that it’s all been so muddled now for 18 years. Pearl Harbor meant war with a declared enemy nation state. It meant the draft, war rations at home, national mobilization, everybody doing their part against an existential threat. And the war ended too.

    What have we had since 9/11? Our airport security went through over a decade of confusing hell and was nationalized. We’ve had capital movement controls implemented, and an IRS even more aggressive on double-taxing Americans who work abroad. We’re all surveilled more than ever (and have happily assented to it for the tech fuzzies). In many respects, our society underwent fundamental shifts after 9/11, and there will be no end.

    Internationally, we’re still in Afghanistan. We’re still in the Middle East in a big way. But we aren’t seen casualties like we would during a “normal” war. There’s an unreality about it from here at home.

    And for our children, it’s all they’ve ever known. There is no longer a “before” memory to cling to.

    • #10
    • September 12, 2019, at 7:27 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Stina Member

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    The events are important to instill gratitude for those who came before and sacrificed so much.

    They are also a reminder of how quickly your world can go topsy turvy. I think that part is important, as well. Maybe even more important, as it pertains to the living.

    That’s what I’m getting at – that our society lives like it rejects that assumption; we don’t think war can ever happen again. Evidence is in the stupid things we do that compromise our security and sovereignty.

    • #11
    • September 12, 2019, at 9:06 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Allie Hahn Coolidge

    I was in 7th grade when 9/11 happened, and now I teach 7th graders – it is weird to think that they weren’t even alive in 2001, so it’s truly all history to them. They do seem to realize how serious it is, though, and care about the memories that others have.

    • #12
    • September 18, 2019, at 6:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes