I still vividly remember that morning and always will.
I was a “stay at home” Mom; my boys were in and out of the house at various times.
It seemed as though I was always delivering a son here or there.
Two in high school, one in Jr high, and one with Pooh and a nonny blanket, under his arm.
Sam & I had returned home, ready to snuggle up on the couch with a story book, when my mother called. “Have you had the TV on?” she asked. We had/have a long standing rule, ‘No TV before school.’ “No,” I said, “Why?” “Something really bad is happening in New York,” my mother said, “Don’t let Sammy see it.” We hung up and I got Sam settled down with Pooh, Elmo and his blanket. When I turned on the television, for some reason, I did not choose PBS, and instead turned on the Disney Channel. Forgive me Pledge break.
I went into the master bedroom and turned on our TV. (Yes, I know, experts say that you should not have a TV in the bedroom, feel free to revoke my ‘Mother of the Year’ award.)
Did I turn on ABC just as the first tower was collapsing to the ground, or was it was the 20th time they had replayed it? Its not important, the effect was still the same. I turned the computer on immediately, and for the next 15 hours captured image after image on my computer’s memory. My students are amazed at the photographs I have of those moments. They still think I was there.
I felt like I was. Even after ten years, the feelings that are brought to the surface as I write this remain the same. I was in utter shock and I was 3,000 miles away. I kept getting up and checking on Sam. Snuggled up with his ‘animals’, he was oblivious to the horror on every other channel. It was surreal to watch ‘Bear in the Big Blue House’ for a few minutes with him, then return to my room to just sit, mouth open, shaking.
I am thankful that I did not turn on PBS. They had the printed news story running along the bottom of the screen, even during Sesame Street. You see, at age four, Sam could read.
I did not need the “child care experts” to tell me that if/when my young child saw the buildings collapsing time after time, that he would think it was yet another building falling to the ground, and not just news footage being replayed. We were vigilant not to let him see any news coverage.
Our older boys saw the news when they returned home that day, and they joined us on the street during the candlelight vigils for several nights. They were with us when the truckload of young men stopped in the middle of the street with a HUGE American flag. Several of these young men, (from the local military base, perhaps) held it high, as Lee Greenwood’s song “Proud To Be An American” was blasted from the truck’s stereo speakers. My boys will still tell you that was the only time Mom didn’t mind the music being turned up loud.
Sam and I laid low for several days. The whole family stayed close to home. Sporting events at jr high and high school were cancelled, so the boys were home right after school. At the beginning of the next week, Sam and I were off to the park, but first, a stop at the post office and bank. Sam was a very perceptive young child; he still notices everything, its just now we don’t have to stop to check out every bug, unusual leaf, or cloud, although I miss the slower pace of those days.
I loaded Sam into the van, and we were off for our first stop, the post office. Sam noticed every American flag he saw waving in the September breeze. There must have been 100 between home and the post office. We pulled into the lot and I got him out of the van. I gave him a hug as I lowered him to the ground in the parking lot. I still remember those cute little red sneakers with the rubber caps over the toes.
Sam stood in the parking lot and looked up at the flag waving above the office. It was at half-mast. Sam looked up at me, looked at the flag, put his hands on his hips…(don’t know where he gets that from…) and said, “Mommy, why is the flag only halfway up?” Then, giving me the ‘evil eye’ that only ‘a just turned 4 year old can’, said, “…and don’t say ‘you don’t know’ Mommy!”
How do you describe an event like 9/11 to someone who only comes up to your thigh, wears Osh Kosh overalls, and has ‘mind of its own’ feathery duck hair? We had, what I like to call our Deuteronomy 6:7-9 moment. My answer seemed to satisfy him and we dropped our mail in the slot.
Our next stop was to be the bank’s ATM, followed by McDonald’s and then off to the park for a picnic and a late morning romp in the park. It sort of went according to plan…..Sammy had been quiet since his question had been answered in the post office parking lot….I thought it had been answered.
I chose to walk through the bank to the ATM machine at the front of the building. The bank is located in a busy shopping center. It seemed safer to go through the bank than to walk around the building and through the busy parking lot…..As we entered the bank, I saw a queue of quiet grown-ups, not talking, listening to Peter Jennings on the TV in the lobby. In fact, none of the adults present, were talking.
In a clear, crisp voice, my son asked, as only a child can, “Well Mommy, when ARE they going to get in trouble??” Every adults head snapped around to face me. Their expressions all seemed to say, “Yes Mommy, tell us! We have questions and there seem to be no answers!”
My mind was racing. “Okay, “I thought, “I never come to this bank…I probably won’t even see any of these people again…what’s more important, to be ‘polictically correct’ or teach my child the values and beliefs I hold to be true?”
Deuteronomy 6: 6-9…Always remember these commands I give you today. Teach them to your children, and talk about them when you sit at home and walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them down and tie them to your hands as a sign. Tie them on your forehead to remind you, and write them on your doors and gates. (New Century Version)
My values won, if you had any doubt. I gave him my answer as we walked through the bank and out the front doors. I talked to him as I made my transaction and I finished the monologue just as we re-entered the bank. (Okay, I know that was bad of me to go back through, but I wondered what the reaction would be.)
Everyone was still staring as we came through. Sammy said, as we went out the other set of double doors, “Okay good, as long as they get in trouble!” To him, at that moment, it was only important to know that ‘they’ would get in trouble, he didn’t need to know when.
We are approaching the tenth anniversary this next Sunday… Sam knows about 9/11; he’ll be studying it in school soon. He has heard our family talk about our memories of that day, and the weeks after. He has seen documentaries on the History Channel.
I recently asked him what he remembers of that day, if anything.
He looked at me, smiled and said, “Having a picnic and playing in the park with my mom!”
I don’t need the “Mother of the year” award to let me know that I’ve done a good job.
It’s things like this that remind me why I stayed home to raise our sons.
Peace to you