Friday, September 16, 2011

A Decade of Differences

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France

With the passing of the tenth anniversary of 9-11, there is a lot of thought processing evoked. So many people saying that they couldn't tell you what they did two days ago, but they can still remember with clarity what they were doing 10 years ago when they heard about the towers being hit. I remember my mother saying the same thing about her hearing that President Kennedy was shot. I remember my grandmother and grandfather being able to tell me exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard about Pearl Harbor. Hearing them say those things as a child, I couldn't grasp how things like that could cause such an indelible memory. But now I do.

Its a decade later, and now I'm in a different position. Now I have the delicate position of educating my children about an event that happened before their time. I'm still struggling what to tell them, because in some ways, I'm still discovering the lessons I've taken away from that day ten years ago. And then there is the whole question of how to explain everything to my kids without shattering their innocence. Monkey's eyes were opened to death at the beginning of the year. Not that she is ignorant of death - we live across the street from a cemetery, she's heard death referenced in movies, she knows her Nana passed away before she was born; but early in the year we experienced the unexpected death of our neighbor. Someone she knew, who had a face, and a voice, and a name. I could tell it really hit her, and how she grappled to wrap her four year old mind around it. The questions and fears she had for weeks afterwards were hard, and a little frightening for me to answer. I couldn't bring myself to use the platitude that she didn't need to worry, that it wouldn't happen to her. It happened to me, it happened to the family next door. Ten years ago, it happened to almost 3,000 other families.

That still leaves me with what message I want her to learn about 9-11. How can you condense the lessons of what happened between now and that terrible day 10 years ago into something that doesn't overwhelm a kindergartener? For a child whose concepts of justice and equality are so delineated in black or white, how can you possibly introduce all those gray areas that senseless death seems to occupy? Is there any way to really convince her that the good that came out of that day, the shows of compassion, samaritanism, the renewed sense of community and nationality, outweigh the loss that was suffered? Is there any way we will ever be able to convince ourselves?

I think of all the moments I've experienced since that day. Life changing moments that have overjoyed and saddened, empowered and overwhelmed. Moments to be celebrated, and moments to be greived. Sunday was a day greived by a nation. I think everyone has lost something since that terrible day, whether it was a loved one, or just the burdenless life of innocence. It is hard to celebrate what you have retained, and what you have gained, when remembering what so many have lost forever. I believe that is the object, though. Ultimately, we must retain, and be open to receiving the gifts we are still given. We must not let the lives of those lost be lost in vain. Speak for them, laugh for them, cry for them, live for them. As a nation we must recover for them, fight for them, and try to change the climate in this world so our fate does not befall another. Perhaps the time freedom comes to all be the indelible memory our children's generation collectively share.

My prayer for you is that 10 years later, when you think of them ... that it brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. ~Joseph Biden

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