Everyone can remember where they were on September 11, 2001, and everyone has their own story about it. One of my kids said a teacher told them that 9/11 is the modern day Pearl Harbor, which gives me more of an appreciation for the national impact of that event.
Throughout the past week, however, I’ve started to be more conscious of the impact of 9/11 on my kids, albeit an indirect impact. At the time, my oldest was in third grade, and my youngest was 3 years old, so they don’t necessarily have a lot of context to appreciate how things are different than they were before that day. Their teachers have certainly placed a lot of emphasis on learning about the events of the day, and the social studies teachers at the high school even made a video in which they interviewed people about their memories of 9/11.
The reaction of my 15-year old son has been slightly different than I anticipated. My own memories of September 11, 2001 involved my son, then a pupil attending morning kindergarten, more than any of my other three kids. Because my downtown office was evacuated by mid morning, I was able to pick my son up from school, a luxury that I didn’t usually enjoy. I was also able to drive him and his miniature buddies to their park district basketball class that afternoon, and I remember thinking that it was so strange to go ahead with those normal activity on such an unusual day.
My son remembered that his mom picked him up from school that day because it was unexpected, but how strong are the memories of a 5-year old really? As a sophomore in high school, he’s rather uninterested in listening to interviews with teachers about where they were that day. He does, however, seem to have an insatiable appetite for t.v. shows about 9/11.
For the past several days he has spent an inordinate amount of time watching shows primary told by and about people who were actually in New York City on September 11, 2001, and he seems to have gravitated toward the stories of heroism. I have listened to him recount numerous stories of people he has seen interviewed who were in the twin towers that day and either assisted or were helped by selfless people who ultimately had an impact on saving the lives of others- and I’m not talking about the firefighters. I’m talking about people helping their coworkers. One story after another focuses on someone who did more than race to save himself.
My son asked his 13-year old sister today what she considered to be the greatest act of heroism, and when she seemed confused by the question, he gave an exaggerated spelling of the word “heroism”, helpfully noting that it differs only slightly from the work heroin. His own example of the greatest act of heroism is the landing of the airplane on the Hudson River a few years ago, and he admonished his sister for not recognizing the name of Captain Sullenberger. A great brother, not giving his sister any breaks.
Being a sophomore in high school is a time fraught with decisions that can propel a kid down either a good or not so good path. It’s not a time when I would not normally think of kids being particularly thoughtful of others, so I’m not all that unhappy to have my son so fixated on these stories of people who did good things. Any of them could have run down the stairs rather than help someone else or sweep the floor for any stragglers.
Maybe my son is fixated on these stories because he’s having a slow weekend, or maybe it’s a function of the fact that the t.v. coverage of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 is focusing more on the personal stories than on the terrorism that caused it all, but it does highlight the good in people, which is a blessing amidst an event spawned by hate.
We don’t have complete control over how our kids turn out; they are strongly impacted by their environment. I know that Sunday, September 11, 2011 will be a day to remember the horrific events of ten years earlier, but maybe for a 15-year old boy there will also be some unintended lessons of goodness that come at a pivotal time for him.
Filed under: Parenting