My other son asked me questions today about 9/11. He asked how it was possible for a small plane to bring down a building as big as the World Trade Center. He had it in his head that the terrorists who flew into buildings that day were in small two or three seater planes, and had just taken off from wherever and flown to their targets. I watched his face as I explained that no, actually, the planes were as big as the one he flew on to his cousin's wedding, that the terrorists were not the only people on board, that there were passengers on those planes as well.
Then he asked me about the field in Pennsylvania: why did the terrorists want to crash into a field? Again, I watched his face as I explained that they actually wanted to hit another building, perhaps the U. S. Congress, and that some of the passengers fought back and caused the plane to crash into a field, and that by doing that, they saved the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who would have been killed had the plane reached its target.
I cannot describe the look on his face when I explained those things to him. Horror, disbelief, rejection... Rejection comes close. He didn't want to know this about the world, I could tell. He thought he knew the story of 9/11 -- I thought he did too. But the details, as one learns them and lets them sink in, are freshly tortuous each time, for each person. I watched those details torture him today.
I turned my face away from him, because I teared up telling him these things. I felt like the hijackers were making me hurt my son by showing him that these things are possible, that people can really do unspeakable things, and that people are faced with impossible choices. He couldn't respond to me in words. He had no more questions. He just sat there, looking stricken and sick, and we drove on to the field where he would be playing in a soccer game in another hour.
* * *
9/11 gave us devastation, pain, suffering.
9/11 gave us the knowledge that people can do evil.
9/11 gave us dust covered faces and falling bodies.
9/11 gave us goodbye voicemails.
9/11 gave us a scorched Pennsylvania field.
9/11 gave us widows and orphans, and 3000 unfillable holes.
9/11 gave us sorrow.
9/11 gave me, gave Rick and I, something else, too. 9/11, five years later, gave us the deepest, fiercest kind of love, the strongest and best thing two people can produce together, 9/11 gave us Little T, in all her defiant and radiant glory.
She turns 5 as the country marks 10. She'll wake up tomorrow overjoyed that this is her day, that she was born, that she is to be celebrated, even as the country wakes up to remember, soberly, lives that were lost to dust and steel 10 years ago. She sees tomorrow as the greatest day ever in the history of the universe and in the history of every person ever born...because this is a kid who loves life like few people ever will.
When she said good night to me tonight, she asked about her Fruit Loops, since we let the kids eat sugary cereal on their birthdays. I told her I still needed to go to the store and buy them, and she asked if I would be going tonight, or tomorrow morning very early. When I told her I wasn't sure yet, she said, in that crazy cartoon voice of hers:
"Well, if you leave tonight, and you think I'm asleep, and you leave without giving me a hug or a kiss? Well, you can still hug and kiss me, even if I'm asleep, because I really don't ever want you to leave without giving me a hug and a kiss. And sometimes, when I wake up and your car is gone, I think you should have given me a hug and kiss before you left."
And then she hugged me, with her strong and spindly arms and legs, and I felt her small frame pressed against mine, and I felt her smooth cheek, and I thought to myself there is nothing as purely good and right as the hug of a little kid.
She is -- all of my children are -- my hope that love will triumph over the evil done on 9/11 and the pain and suffering that reverberate out from that day. She reverberates too: a resounding and repeating song of grabbing life with both hands, jumping in with abandon, and hanging on for the laughter filled ride.
9/11/01 and 9/11/06 have given me the very same thing, namely this lesson: hug and kiss the people you love, each and every time you leave them.
* * *