11 September 2009

New York

Young Witnesses Remember 9/11

Eight years.

Like these children, the daughter was 4 years old.

I didn't change the channel fast enough that morning, eight years ago. The kids wanted to watch Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat before they had breakfast and got dressed for school, but they couldn't get the TV tuned to PBS. I stared uncomprehendingly at the burning tower on the morning news as I bent to grab the remote, and as the three of us watched, the second plane went into the other tower, live on TV, behind the Peter Jennings' oblivious head.

The son doesn't say much about that morning. He was seven, nearing eight, and we answered his questions, and discussed the attacks to the extent that he wanted. In the months and years that followed, it was the daughter who would suddenly begin talking about what happened in a very matter of fact way. I was so startled one afternoon as the third anniversary of the attacks neared, as she sat drawing with her crayons while I made dinner and she said, apropos of nothing, "I pray for those people. The ones who died."

"What do you remember about September 11?" I asked carefully. I'd never been sure of what stuck with her, and hoped that it was little. Here on the West Coast, we had a 3,000-mile buffer, though no one seemed to be untouched by the events of that day.

"You cried," she replied, coloring purposefully. "That really scared me. I'd never seen you cry. And when I asked you what you wanted for Christmas that year, you said you wanted it to be September 10."

She looked up at me. "All those people died," she said, and her voice shook a little. "It was so sad."

Then she returned to her drawing.

"I pray for them," she said, softly.

Go listen to some good music: "New York" from the album All That You Can't Leave Behind by U2.

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