“Mom, What’s a Terrorist?” A conversation with my daughter

On the evening of September 10, I talked with my daughter about 9/11. She is 10. She wasn’t here to know what life was like before that day. Things that are different for us are normal to her.

When she came home from school the next day, the 11th, she told me that her teacher had mentioned it in class, and that the majority of her classmates did not know what the significance of that day was. No, we will never forget that day, but we are so very lucky that the atmosphere since then has not taken total innocence away from those born after it. We can tell them, so they know, and we can be honest about all of it, but we can also tell them in a way that does not promote the anger and fear that we experienced. This way, when the time comes for them to make decisions, to vote, to fight, to take charge, they will be able to make them with clearer heads.

“Last night, my 10-year-old daughter Brynn and I were on the computer together, and we started to see tribute posts about 9/11. I made a comment about how many years it had been since that day. She looked up at me in question, and I realized she knew nothing about it.

The first thing I said was that it was a terrorist attack.

“What’s a terrorist?”

That question threw me for a moment, because so many emotions hit me at once. I think part of me was surprised that she wasn’t familiar with it – but part of me was also happy that she didn’t, because it is a definite testament to how fortunate we are.

Surprise, pleasure, pride.

I was troubled, too; because by telling her I would be sticking a pin in that bubble of innocence, the one that is part of the carefree childhood we all look back fondly on, those days we realize we can never get back. I debated not telling her just yet.

Then, I considered how she might find out from someone else. Would that person speak in anger or in fear? Would another’s telling her color her perceptions? Make her afraid?

I decided to talk to her about it. I wanted it coming from me.

Sadness, resolve.

My ‘story’ about that day is a little difficult, but not nearly as bad as so many others’.  I’d already written about it a couple of times. The last time I wrote about it was in 2013, because I found myself on a plane that September 11th . Coincidentally, that was only a few months after the Marathon Bombing and this blog that I started a week later, writing about that day…”

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