Sunday, October 2, 2011

9/11 memorial

We attended the 9/11 memorial this year at the International Peace Gardens. On the way there, we listened to radio interviews of people involved in ongoing memorializing efforts. A poet, whose name I am sorry to not be able to find, wrote a poem that became famous in the aftermath of 9/11 and then wrote one this year specifically about steel workers - those who built the towers and those who, some 50+ years later, dealt with the wreckage. These guys involved in the clean up, she said, knew which pieces of wreckage belonged throughout the building, where people would've been in their last seconds. They knew that the large numbers written across beams were floor numbers, marked back at their initial installation. They have an understanding of the building, a skeletal knowledge of it that lends a different heaviness to the events.

Also interviewed was the creator of the new memorial at ground zero, the reflecting pools. It was especially moving to me to hear some of the thought and intentionality that went into the plan. Around the pools are name placards of everyone killed in the attacks, and the designers spent a year discussing with families the idea of adjacent placard placement - names placed next to friends' names, etc. There were all kinds of considerations and connections, more than you'd ever think, and the designers wanted to accommodate all requests. As a small instance, one woman lost her father on one of the airplanes and her best friend in one of the towers (!). The names of those two victims are beside each other.

Here are a few pics of the service.

an unidentifed batch of U.S. Border Patrolmen and Royal Canadian Mounted Police 
some of the tower wreckage, I assume from the 58th floor (??)

I am not clear on why the Scottish/Irish bagpipe and kilt thing is so heavily connected to funerals and memorial services in our country, and to the military and law enforcement. Tradition brought by Highlands type immigrants, no doubt, but why has it stuck? Don't get me wrong - the bagpipes are rad. In fact, we knew a bagpiper in Montana, and he could've totally played at Jason's and my wedding. Dad and I were all for it (rad, right??), but Jason and Mom voted it down. That's tough - bride and father of the bride against groom and mother of the bride. Somehow they won. Total side note.

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A week later, Zoralee asked more about the events of 9/11. It sure is hard to know how much to say to a two-year old. I've continued with the philosophy that seems most right to me - tell the truth, even if I leave out some of the scariest or most confusing details. I told her there were people who were mad at our country and decided to fly airplanes into tall buildings in New York City. But even in plain, over-simplistic language, that's a pretty weird and scary notion. Never the less, that's what I told her. And we looked at her map to see where NYC is. 

As an afterthought, so that she could make geographic connections, I told her that now cousins Taylor and Dalton are going to college in NYC. She went to her play room for a few minutes, then came out and asked me if Taylor and Dalton died in NYC. I explained that no, the 9/11 things happened a long time ago, and Taylor and Dalton were in NYC now. She then wanted to know the names of the people who died. So we looked it up online, and I found lists of the deceased. I must've said aloud (though I didn't realize it) that oops, this particular one is a list only of those who died in the towers, but we would go ahead and read it anyway. Then I read aloud a dozen or so names, and she said, "Oh" after each one. I went to something else on the web, and a few minutes later, Zoralee asked for the names of the people who were in the airplanes.

Later that day, Jason suggested I watch Loose Change, a provocative documentary that purports there's a lot more to the events than what we've been led to believe. Of course, I'm familiar with this notion, but haven't read or watched a whole lot on it. If I do take time to hear ideas, get better informed, etc. and develop a more complex narrative about 9/11, hopefully Zoralee won't ask about it until next year, at least... Some of you who have had seven, eight, nine years to explain this to your kids, what have you opted to say?


Rachel Clear @ Clearly Speaking said...

We still talk about Zoralee's retelling of 9/11 to us.

"I'm sad."
"Because a lot of people died."
"Really? Why?"
"Because some people didn't like our country. I'm sad."
"Oh, that is sad."
"Uh, Auntie Rachel, I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to Uncle Cameron."

That kid. It is always so interesting to see that soft and loving side come out of her. The 9/11 memorial must have had a real impact on her. Maybe because it was somber and serious, and she doesn't have much practice being in church... where somber and serious would be more common place. :)

I think you do great with how you explain things to her. Most people probably wouldn't explain this stuff to a 2-year old, but then, MOST 2 YEAR OLDS WOULDN'T ASK. No one else has a Zoralee. And you are the best mom for a Zoralee. You are!

melissa said...

This kind of thing is tough to talk about with kids, but uber important to be honest about, IMO. I try to follow their lead, and answer their questions directly. Ayden often wants to know about the victims; Matthew about explosions and crashes and how safe are we, exactly? I have some small practice prepping for Big Questions because I have an adopted kid who asks things like, "Why did you and daddy adopt me if you could have your own kids?"
Sum that up in less than five sentences for a tazmanien devil energetic child with a wickedly short attention span?

lori said...

Thanks for the chimes, girls. Oh Rachel, Zoralee does too have practice being in church. Just not, you know, every Sunday. More like one Sunday a mon----every now and again. We're working back up to it.
Melissa - nothing like starting out with the "easy" questions. Sheesh! But yeah, it makes sense that different kids would be interested in different aspects of a tragedy. And so far the honesty thing is panning out for us too, but yeah, letting them lead with questions is a good idea.