Can they understand?

Today is the fourteenth year after that fateful day in New York, D.C. and that field in Pennsylvania. Today marks another year passed that terrorists tried to take down the United States people.

Yet, I wonder if the children now understand what that day was like for most of us who lived through it?

Last week on Friday I found out that my own children have a large amount of compassion for humans they don’t even know. We don’t have a television antenna or cable or internet to stream news. We use our radio. Every morning we listen to the news talk radio on our way into town. Last week they listened as thousands of people tried to escape war by entering into other countries. I explained to my children what was going on as they asked questions about where these places were and what was happening. By the end of the week my kids were wondering why we couldn’t just live where we wanted to, since we all live on the same planet?

Today children held their voices back and lowered their heads in honor to those who died fourteen years ago. My niece and nephew, on the other hand, tried to tell me how they learned about it in school. I watched in bewilderment as my niece laughed and smiled her way through her explanation of it all.

I turned on my hotspot and streamed a video of that day to show her. I couldn’t hold my tears as my memory of that fear and sorrow came again. She shrugged and said, “Did people die? Like in a movie?”

Like in a movie…

My nephew just rolled his twelve year old eyes and said he was going outside to shoot arrows at the target. “I didn’t care about some stupid building.”

My kids had had to be removed from the classroom like they did every year because they were crying too  hard.

But my kids are the ones who aren’t “normal”. Their classmates don’t understand why they cry hearing about someone they don’t know who died.

My younger coworkers are the same way. They don’t remember it and they just shrug.

Today is another day for these kids. It isn’t that to me, though.

I remember the phone call that morning before the phones became jammed. I remember the excitement at first as I told my classmates in my high school and then the confusion as our school was locked down. I lived in Las Vegas. New York could have been South Africa to me at that moment. Then came the announcement that all teachers were not to allow radio or television in the classes. We were deaf and blind sitting in those schools.

My dad had me removed after threatening to sue the district. I remember coming out of the building to the court yard to see the elementary kids being herded into the high school gym and probably down to the bomb shelters below. My dad roughly brought me to the van where the radio turned on to report the Pentagon had been hit.

My heart pounded as the excitement turned to fear. I was in a major city and one that brings in traffic from around the world.

At home I was told to get on the computer and get in contact with my siblings on the East Coast. My two brothers and a sister lived and worked in the tristate area. I didn’t have much information on them except for an email address. I instant messaged another sister, one who was in Florida, and we both kept trying to contact the oldest three. The phones were useless anyway.

As the trade center fell I began to feel numb. We had watched live as people had jumped and reports came in that a group had been found in our own airport. As the buildings fell we cried. For the first time in my life I saw my dad sob.

My brain filled in that those were dads, moms, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons. My own brothers could be in the rubble beneath. Those buildings could have been the casino my dad works in instead of a sky scraper on the other side of the world.

That day filled me with a new fear and determination. August 2003 I walked into a recruiters office with the image of those buildings in my head. I boarded a plane for Recruit Training Command with a burning for the people who died on those four planes in 2001.

Maybe these kids don’t understand that fear, but I hope that one day they will know the compassion for those who survived it. I hope one day they will feel the burn inside to live everyday to protect the innocent.

I have the new fear that we have desensitized our youth, though. The smile and the shrug make me worry that we won’t remember. One day those innocent people and their families will just be a picture in a history book. I hope that a few will still shed a tear.

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One thought on “Can they understand?

  1. Very moving and very well written. I know I will never forget that day. I was at my 2nd job that morning, customer came in and said that a plane hit one of the towers. I was thinking of the incident back in the 20s when a plane hit the tallest skyscraper at that time the Empire State building. When another customer came in and said another plane hit the other tower I immediately said Terrorists are attacking us, more than likely from the middle East. Being a Army veteran I knew we would be at war. When I got home that night after working my primary full time job I watched everything on TV I could not would not sleep. I thought back to Pearl Harbor, being a history buff, and after all these years I now knew how the people felt on that fateful day. I knew what I had to do. I had to talk to a recruiter find out if I could once again join with my brothers and sisters and do what I was trained to do fight for my country and it’s people. Unfortunately the years had been rough on my body and I would not be allowed to do so. I needed an outlet I was lost, depressed, especially when my old unit was one of the first to go into Afghanistan to find the people responsible. Thankfully I found a group of Veterans to be with. They were mostly Vietnam Vets from my Division and sister Airborne units with a few Korea and WWII Vets as well. We provided honor guards when a soldier was killed in combat or when he lost his own battle back home. We comforted Gold Star Mothers and the buddies who came back home. This helped with my quilt of not doing what I was supposed to be doing. This Day I will never forget.

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