Last night, after she finished her math, Mazzy took out her social studies homework. It was an article about a firefighter who had died in the Twin Towers. She had to read it and answer a few questions. She looked at me noticing her work.
“Mom. We learned about 9/11 in class today.”
I nodded. We have mentioned general details to her in previous years. Two planes flew into the Twin Towers causing them to fall down. Many people died, including a lot of firemen trying to save the people inside.
Last year, she asked if the people who flew the planes into the buildings had done it on purpose.
“Yes. They were bad people who also died in the crash.”
I asked her what she learned in class today. In her explanation, she used the word “terrorists” for the first time. She said it slowly and a little uncertainly to make sure she had it right. Then she told me that there were actually four planes, not just two.
I said, “That’s right. Two went into the towers, one went into the Pentagon, and one…”
She finished for me, “…crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.”
“Yes. Do you know why it crashed?” I asked her, thinking it was an opportunity to discuss more heroes on this horrible day.
She said “yes,” but then seemed a little unsure, so I explained, “the people figured out what was happening and risked their lives to make sure the plane didn’t hit another target. They became heroes that day.”
She looked at me confused. “The terrorists weren’t heroes.”
“No. Not the terrorists. The passengers.”
Too late, I realized my mistake. Innocent people on the plane was new information to her.
“Wait. Were they people who just got on the plane thinking they were going on a regular trip?”
Uh oh. I had gone too far. My guess is that she was imagining foreign military planes as opposed to regular passenger planes. I searched my brain for what to say next. She saved me…
“Can that happen again?” she asked.
I told Mazzy about all the security measures at the airport that didn’t exist before 9/11. How everything is searched so that no one can carry a weapon on a plane undetected. How we put our bags through metal detectors and have to take out certain items for them to inspect by hand. I reminded her about the body scanners we walk through and how sometimes we are patted down just to be safe.
Then we both stood in silence, looking out my bedroom window at the two blue lights shining up into the sky where the old World Trade Center used to be.
“Where were you on 9/11?” She asked me for the first time.
I told her.
You can read my story, which is not exceptional in any way, here.