I Don’t Know Why

I Don’t Know Why

How do you explain 9/11/2001 to young children? I didn’t know how… (9/11/2001)

Today New York burned. Terrorists crashed two airplanes into the two World Trade Center buildings and another into the Pentagon. I woke up in peace; I now live wrapped in a bit more fear, worry and sadness than yesterday.

My mother called me to tell me what had happened. I turned on the television immediately. I watched in horror as images were shown of two of the largest buildings in the world collapsing, of smoke billowing above New York, of the Pentagon burning.

I was with my 4-year-old son and my 2½-year-old daughter as I watched. Intuitively, they sensed my anxiety. “Daddy, what’s that?” they asked. I told them that an airplane had crashed into the building. Practically in tears, my daughter asked, “Why?”

How can I possibly explain to a 2½-year-old, or even a 4-year-old, something that I can’t even come close to comprehending? I told my kids that a mean person crashed the plane into the building. “I don’t want that mean guy hurt me,” my daughter sniffed. My daughter’s lower lip trembled a bit and my son came to sit on my lap and hold me.

“Why? Why mean guy do that?” This from my daughter. “Why, Daddy?” This from my son.

I pride myself on trying to patiently and honestly answer this favorite and most frustrating of questions from my children. But, I was at a complete loss here. An unsatisfying – to me and to my kids – “I don’t know” was the best I could offer.

I pray that my children’s life is not overly affected by today’s events. I hope the next time they want to board a plane they’re not confronted with armed policemen or soldiers. I hope that when they’re old enough to visit our nation’s capital, it is safe for them to do so. I hope when they’re old enough to go shopping or see a show in New York, that there’s a New York for them to visit. And I hope that their lives are not touched by “that mean guy.” By any meanness of any kind, ever.

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