|Fisher-Price Rescue heroes always save the world. Real heroes do their best.|
I was not acquainted with any of the people who died that day, but I have grieved for all of them. The way I pack a suitcase for air travel is much more complicated than before because of new restrictions for safety; as is crossing International borders. I never used to give much thought to airplanes passing overhead; now I find myself willing them to stay in the sky. Mostly, however, what has changed is a feeling of security.
The majority of us born before 1995 or so know exactly what we were doing when we learned of the attack. I had taken my daughter to preschool and returned home with my three-year old son. I turned on the TV, as one of his favorite children's shows was on at that time. I was in the kitchen when I heard him call, "Mommy, a plane just flew into a building!"
What? I thought I had accidentally turned on the wrong channel and he was watching an adult movie. I rushed out to correct my mistake, and saw the "breaking news" announcement. A replay was already being shown of what my child had just seen. Stunned, I watched and I remember I kept exclaiming, "Oh no, those poor people." When the second plane hit, my son asked what was happening - and I didn't know how to answer.
Then he said, " Where are the firemen, Mommy? They will get there, right?"
That question brought my attention back to my responsibilities as a parent, and I calmed my demeanor and switched off the television. I gathered up my little boy, and tried to explain the horror of the news he had just witnessed, in a way that it would lessen the terror of it. My mind was reeling, and it was much later that the full significance of his question sunk in.
My son's favorite toys at that time were Fisher-Price Rescue Heroes. They are action figures, sold with books and movies about their courageous rescues. "Billy Blazes" was his favorite character - a brave, level-headed and compassionate fireman. "Billy would find a way to make everything okay," my son probably thought.
There were a lot of "Billy Blazes" at the World Trade Center that day, and they did everything in their power to "make everything okay". The stories of the selfless rescue efforts of firefighters, emergency medical technicians, police, and other people who climbed UP towards the burning, crumbling floors of those buildings are heart-wrenching. The courage shown by the passengers and crew who acted to abort the hijacking of the fourth plane is humbling. The rescue efforts and many, many acts of kindness in the aftermath are heart-warming. Had it been humanly possible, these people would have accomplished the rescue a three-year old believed feasible.
The news of this terrorist attack was too much for me to handle without adult support. I found a children's video to occupy my son and distract his thoughts. (Another television show was not an option - every station was broadcasting the news, and he had seen more than enough.) I called my husband and cried. Then I called a good friend whose daughter went to preschool with my daughter. Neither of us wanted to be alone, and we felt a need to be close to our children. We decided to meet at the preschool, even though pick-up time wouldn't be for another hour. When my son and I got there, there were at least half a dozen moms who had come early as well. We continued to try to find out more news, and talked and prayed. In the days following the attacks, occasions like this when Americans drew together and comforted each other were common.
After that first accidental viewing, I attempted to censor the television coverage my children saw of the attack. We had to give them an explanation though. Sadly, they no longer believed that adults could fix everything, and their world felt less safe.
So did mine. Just like my son found out that life doesn't always have the happy ending of a Rescue Hero episode, I found out that the United States is not as safe and secure as we all had believed it to be.
We will be forever saddened by the tragedy of 9/11/01, in awe of the heroes of that day, and grateful to everyone who has worked to ensure our safely. September 11, forever-more, will be a day we mourn our fallen and celebrate the courageous acts of true real life heroes.
- Watch More Never Forget: A 9/11 Tribute
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