Saturday, September 11, 2010

WE REMEMBER: It's a bit odd having a September 11 anniversary on a weekend, because that's not how we experienced the day itself, though today's perfect autumn-like weather here in Philadelphia is eerily reminiscent.

I have nothing new or profound to say today, but it's been a tradition here to provide some apolitical space for members of our community to speak their minds on their memories of or reflections on the day, or on those we lost or anything else you deem appropriate. Below the fold, still the song that hits me hardest about that day:


  1. I'm curious what, if anything, those of you who also have young kids have done about explaining this to them.  My daughter is about to turn 7, and I think we lay low this year, but I suspect that next year we'll have to spill the beans, given what I imagine will be a complete deluge of coverage (ten years, wow).  Others on what, if anything, you've said (and, if you're comfortable, please state the age at which you said it).

  2. The Pathetic Earthling2:20 PM

    The Little Earthling, now six, knows about good guys and bad guys in the real world, but we really haven't gone into much detail about 9/11 with him.  If at all, it's "bad guys crashed airplanes into some buildings, because they were bad guys."

  3. Dan Suitor3:10 PM

    U2's Superbowl Halftime Show was, in my mind, the most beautiful tribute anyone could muster. Projecting the names of all those who were killed onto two long banners, while singing Where The Streets Have No Name, before letting the banners flutter down to Earth- a visual so gentle that it almost mocks the violence of the attacks.

    If you haven't seen it, or haven't seen in it 10 years, give it a go:

    I well up every time.

  4. Emily3:14 PM

    In NYC it was the perfect blue sky and lovely autumn weather that struck me today, as well. Otherwise, I'm just bracing myself for next year.

  5. Dan Suitor3:15 PM

    My memory failed me: it was just one banner. Still gets me teary-eyed.

  6. heather k3:23 PM

    Actually that was part of their stage show that tour, adapted into it with the banners they already had going in their show pre-9/11.

  7. I rewatched a couple of years ago, and yes, it's overly on-the-nose and preachy, but given that it was written, rehearsed, and filmed in a matter of about 10 days, it's a pretty fine response.  Also (without getting overly political) it certainly speaks to some issues that have rearisen in recent years.

  8. Tosy and Cosh5:12 PM

    Our twins are 6, and we haven't mentioned it at all yet, nor have they asked. Not sure when we would broach it - would imagine school/friends will bring it up though.

  9. D'Arcy5:55 PM

    My girls are 8, 6 and 3, and we haven't explained anything yet. I don't know how much they're aware of. If the older ones were to ask, I think I'd go with something similar to the Earthlings explanation - some bad people flew planes into the towers and the Pentagon. And stress that those people did something bad, but that doesn't mean everyone who comes from the same part of the world or practices the same religion is bad - it was just those people involved in that incident.

    I did, however, try to explain "gay" to the older ones yesterday. I didn't know how to explain why some people think it's an insult.

  10. Jenn.8:23 PM

    I was driving in my car soon after 9/11, when the Eva Cassidy song I Know You By Heart came on:" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="170" height="140

    With the lyrics:

    You left in Autumn
    The leaves were turning
    I walked down roads of orange and gold.
    I saw your sweet smile
    I heard your laughter
    You're still here beside me every day.

    'Cause I know you by heart,
    'Cause I know you by heart.

    To this day, it always makes me think of the people lost on 9/11, and the people left behind.  It also makes me think of the miniature bios that the NYT ran after 9/11, still one of the finest tributes I've yet to see for 9/11, and an excellent piece of public service.  I turned pretty wussy about seeing film of the towers soon after 9/11, but I did make myself read every one of those.

    Otherwise, the U2 song Walk On and much of that album makes me think of 9/11.

  11. Genevieve8:35 PM

    Our son learned about it at school (not sure whether from friends or class discussion) at age 8, I think.  I worried a lot about it before-the-fact, and it turned out to actually be kind of a relief that he learned about it elsewhere, though we certainly had some discussions about it after and since.

  12. Marsha8:55 PM

    My oldest is 5.5 years old - hasn't come up yet, and I'm not bringing it up yet. Given that he starts school Monday and that it's kindergarten, I'm guessing I don't have to worry that it'll be discussed in school. But next year, with the tenth anniversary and it being first grade, might come up. Will deal with it then.

  13. Fred App10:48 PM

    My main memory of 9/11 is working like hell to report the news while worrying like hell about the safety of my wife, who was seven months pregnant with our first child. What I remember more than 9/11, though, are the days that followed: the stench of the smoke and (presumably) human flesh that permeated Manhattan; the sirens screaming in the night as the police used the avenue next to our apartment as their main artery downtown; the walk home every night past the Lexington Avenue armory where two city blocks of fencing was covered with handbills desperately looking for lost family members and friends. And most of all: the anxiety of not knowing what was next, the dread that there was another attack in the offing, and the nauseating fear that the child I was bringing into this world would never be safe and I would never be able to protect him.

    I know this blog is apolitical, so I'll avoid saying anything partisan. But nothing gets me angrier than being scolded for not "learning the lessons" of 9/11 by people who had the good fortune to experience 9/11 at a safe distance. I'm not saying people outside New York didn't feel the horror and tragedy; just that people in New York felt it at a much more intimate and gut-wrenching level.

  14. Before The Rising album I was pretty apathetic about Springsteen.  I liked a few songs (Glory Days, Fire, Born in the USA), but I didn't really get the hype or understand when an old boss of mine described him as New Jersey's (honorary) poet laureate.  The Rising changed that. I get it now.

    Also, the John Mayer song "Covered in Rain" always makes me think of 9/11. 

    I don't know how you explain something like this to kids. In 2001 my then 4-year-old niece asked me about it. Although we tried to shield the little ones, she had seen some of the coverage on TV and had heard adults discussing it. Plus, her dad is an Army Reservist who was activated that day to help guard NYC bridges and tunnels. Anyway, here was this innocent 4 year old asking why anyone would fly a plane into a building and I had no idea what to say so I just hugged her and agreed with her theory that "maybe the man's hands were slippery, like mine get when grandma makes me French toast and I put too much butter on it." Nine years later I can't imagine I'd have a better response.  

    I watched some of the stuff on the History Channel today. Still horrific to see the second plane hit and the towers collapse. Doesn't feel like nine years ago when you're watching. 

  15. Genevieve11:18 PM

    It also was not nearly as traumatic for him to learn about it as I had feared.
    This is the first year (age 10) I remember him being worried about it - triggered by the talk of the planned Koran burning and how that could lead to retaliation.

  16. Carmichael Harold11:31 PM

    There's always The Onion's oh-so-helpful advice from their post-9/11 issue:,8058/ .  

    Speaking of that issue of The Onion, I still appreciate the "HOLY FUCKING SHIT" headline. I didn't watch the History Channel stuff that erin mentioned, but did catch the as-it-happened Today show replay on MSNBC.  I felt, in some ways, nearly identical to the way I felt nine years ago, with the distance acting only as a faint breaker.  I was fortunate enough not to be in Manhattan (I was in DC), and so it wasn't the visceral panic of direct, personal danger, but the combination of horror at what I was watching on TV (the repeated clip of the 2nd plane barrelling in much too large and impossible and then, later, the falling bodies, again made my hair stand on end), which I remembered, and the weird existential dread of having no real ability to access the appropriate context to understand what exactly was going on, which was a feeling I had completely forgotten about.  It hit me at three distinct times: the two that erin mentioned, and then when they showed the Pentagon shrouded in smoke and Katie Couric's voice caught for a second as if smacked by the sense that the awfulness was somehow larger than we feared.  That dread was a feeling that I had only once before experienced (learning that my father had cancer), and that I very much hope I can live a long life without ever experiencing again. 

  17. I was about to turn nine and my brother was six on 9/11.  I don't remember what our parents said to us, but I do remember that they wouldn't allow us to see the images or watch the tv coverage.  The first time I saw footage from that day was during the closing video at the Spy Museum a few years later.  That was odd because by that time pretty much everyone else had seen it so it was just in the video to make a point about the changing world of espionage but I was kind of taken aback.  And I haven't been to the Spy Museum in a while but as I remember it there wasn't any sort of "this might be upsetting to people" warning, which I feel like it definitely could have been.

  18. Cocaine's a hell of a drug.

  19. If your son is hearing talk about the Koran burning, that means you're letting him watch tv news.  Feh.

  20. Seven more years until Beloit College reminds us that the incoming freshman have no memory of September 11.

  21. lisased3:23 AM

    My oldest daughter was 9 months old on 9/11. We were attending her first playgroup, and everyone's cell phones went off at once. After we got back home (and I watched my husband on TV, walking across the Key Bridge, heading home from his job in DC), I was grateful she was too young to ask questions. A few years ago, she watched a documentary with her grandfather and came home with lots of questions. I started out with "bad men in plans trying to hurt the US", but then it turned into an explanation of why not everyone in the world thinks we are the best nation. Unfortunately, she saw the footage of bodies falling and asked why the people would jump. I teared up and said, "Sometimes, when you don't have a choice, you make the only choice you have left."

  22. I'd say it's only 3-4 years of kids who have no memory.  7 more years and they weren't born when it happened.  Yikes.

  23. Genevieve12:50 PM

    It means he heard about it from someone.  Not the news.