We talked about the police officers and firefighters who had died trying to save people, because that’s what we do. I had her watch the video footage with me of the towers being attacked and later collapsing. I talked about what must have happened on United Flight 93 and how the passengers sacrificed their own lives trying to stop the bad guys. As my frequent travel companion, she was curious about what happened on that flight from Newark, New Jersey. Didn’t the pilots have guns, she asked? Weren’t there any police officers on board? What’s a terrorist? Why do they hate us? And the question I knew was coming and dreaded: “Are they going to come here Mommy?” Oh boy. They didn’t cover that one in the parenting books.
Never one to hide reality from my kids, I told my daughter that the terrorists might come here, but that they probably had their eye on the city, that our small town was an unlikely target. I told her that she needed to be brave, and that she needed to never panic if something bad did happen. I reminded her, as always, that she was strong and smart and fast, and that God loved her just as much as I did, and then we prayed.
September 11th was the last time I ever watched network news; I was sickened by the almost immediate politicization of the attacks. I began to further educate myself about radical Islam and I did what I could to support my friends who were deployed to Afghanistan. And I decided that I couldn’t retire after all; I needed to be a cop in this post 9/11 world we were all trying to get used to. My husband decided to move to Illinois, get out of the corporate world and just be a trainer. Again, the “life is too short” mentality took precedent; life was certainly too short to be married and live 1000 miles apart! We decided to walk our own talk and live in the now.
I retired two years ago, we still live in Illinois. On the tenth anniversary of September 11th, Dave and I will be on an airplane, coming back from a wedding in Colorado. When we get home I’m going to sit down with my 11th grader and ask her what she remembers about that day. I don’t need to remind her about the threat of terrorism in our lives, she hears us talk about it almost every day. But I’m still going to remind her that she is strong, smart and fast, and that God and I love her even more than we did on that terrible day ten years ago. And then we’ll pray.