Personalize It

All this week, Everyday Truth is focusing on how to talk with our kids about the events of 9/11.

Everyone has a 9/11 story. We all know exactly where we were and what we were doing on that morning when the world as we knew it changed.

It was my first day as a full-time stay-at-home mom. I was having breakfast and feeding my 3-month-old. I had the radio on and heard that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. I thought, "How odd" and finished breakfast. As I went upstairs to get dressed, I turned on the TV to see what was going on. Not two minutes after I flipped the TV on, the second plane hit the other tower.

In horrified shock, I reached for the phone. The only thought I could come up with was "Where is my dad?" My dad travels a lot, and on a Tuesday morning, it was not unlikely that he would be on a plane. When my mom answered the phone, I didn't bother with "Hello." I simply asked "Where is dad?" Puzzled, my mom answered "Right here. He's leaving for New York later this morning."

While you and I have a 9/11 story, most of our children do not. They either weren't alive or were very small on that day.

It's important that we never forget 9/11. Otherwise those who died, did so for nothing. As the years pass, it becomes another day in history for our kids. While the horror of the day is imprinted on our brains, so is the heroism. The stories of people pulling together and helping each other are as much a part of the legacy of 9/11 as being frisked at the airport.

God did great things in the midst of 9/11. He gave courage to the weak and comfort to the grieving. Churches were in the middle of the crisis. They fed the rescue workers. They counseled the stricken. They opened their doors as shelters. God's love and care were just as evident during 9/11 as the evil that caused the events of that day.

Our kids need to know that there was good that came out of evil. We need to help them remember. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were faced with a similar issue. Their children weren't around when God did great things to bring them out of slavery in Egypt. They had to pass on the stories of redemption. Psalm 78:4 says "We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done."

Telling your kids your 9/11 story and the stories of people you know makes the event more than just a page in the history books for them. It makes it real, and it gives you the opportunity to focus on how God showed up during the crisis. It makes the stories of heroism and the stories of tragedy more than just a picture on the TV.

  • Let your kids ask questions. The memories of that day are so thick with emotion that it can be easy to want to simply gloss over what happened. Discussion may be difficult for us. But for our kids to understand that God is there in the bad times as well as the good, we need to satisfy their curiosity about that day.
  • Give your kids the information they are ready for. We don't want our kids to live in fear. If you're child will be terrified by the pictures of the twin towers, then don't show them pictures. If graphic descriptions of what happened that day are going to cause your child not to be able to sleep at night, then give them the generalities.
  • Expect your kids to not grasp the significance of the day. Kids are extremely self-centered. They may not realize that this anniversary has anything to do with them. And that's OK. Your goal is to personalize the event so they realize this is something that happened to real people. As they get older, they'll begin to grasp more of how 9/11 changed the world we live in.
  • Let your kids take the lead. As you talk with your kids, they will let you know how much they are ready to hear and see. Pay close attention to their cues.
  • Talk about your feelings. Let your kids know how it felt to be a part of that day. Fill them in on what you did in the days that followed.

Your 9/11 story is part of the legacy of that day. Share it with your kids so they begin to understand what happened on that autumn morning 10 years ago. Focus on the things that God did during one of the darkest hours of our nation. Because He was there even in the midst of the destruction.