9/11, A Generation Later

So yesterday was 9/11. Anyone above a certain age in America, and in many countries around the world, knows what that means. A day of horror and grief as terrorists attacked America, flying commercial airliners filled with passengers into buildings. The day the Twin Towers of Manhattan became twisted rubble, the Pentagon lost a side, and a plane full of heroes plunged into a field.

That was 18 years ago. Almost a full generation. I remember it like it was yesterday. The horror, the pain, the tears, the rage, the grief. My daughter is 9 years old. She’s in 4th grade. This is the first year they really talked about it in school. Honestly, I don’t know how the teachers do it, as I know they all feel the same emotions I do when I think about it.

My daughter came home and started asking questions about my experience, but it soon turned to the events themselves. She was very impressed with the people on Flight 93. “They didn’t fight to save themselves, but to save other people.”

And we talked about why the Towers eventually fell, and why they didn’t right away. We talked about why the firefighters and other first responders kept going back in for more and more people even as the likelihood of structural collapse rose.

We discussed why the terrorists targeted the buildings they did (“Why didn’t they crash into the Statue of Liberty? That’s a symbol of America.”). The heart of our military and the heart of our business sector. And why they attacked America and not other Western countries.

For all that we talked, there were some things I did not tell her.

  • I did not tell her that people jumped from the Towers rather than burn to death.
  • I did not tell her there were babies on Flight 93, and likely on others.
  • I did not tell her that even today people who were at Ground Zero are dealing with the illnesses contracted from the toxic debris.

I did not tell her because she is only nine, and there are some things she doesn’t need to know yet.

Some things I wish I could un-know.

So instead, we talked about other parts of 9/11.

  • The rescue dogs that patrolled the debris searching for survivors.
  • The motley flotilla of boats that raced to Manhattan and ferried people to safety.
  • The generosity and compassion of Canada as they took in flights full of frightened and bewildered Americans.

We talked about those things, because that was the progression of the day: Horror. Grief. Pain.


Hope for a better future—a future I see in the face of my daughter and all of the current generation. We will never be able to fully transmit to them the terror of that day.

But we can give them the hope.

Lady Liberty’s torch shines on, and they are the ones to carry it next.


  1. Carolee Pastorius says

    Great post, Kerry! Our boys were grown, so they saw it all on TV. They wanted us to move from VA to Iowa!

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