Remembering 9/11, and Hiding It From My Kids

It’s Sunday, and the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. For whatever reason, my kids decided to wake up at four a.m. today, and Hubby’s in Arizona.

Groggy, grumpy, I let them watch cartoons, and I opened up my laptop. There were so many 9/11- themed news articles, all written from different angles, and I found myself reading one about Lyle Owerko, the photographer who took this photo for Time.

I was drawn to the story, and I found myself remembering that day.

I was an intern rotating on the general pediatrics ward at a small hospital in Connecticut. We were standing in the room of a young man with his leg in traction. His injury was purely orthopedic and his prognosis was excellent, so the conversation with him and his mother was lighthearted, sports-talk type of stuff. The television was on, and there was a news report about a plane that had hit the World Trade Center. Someone made a comment about it, how weird it was, and we actually stayed for a minute watching the coverage in this kid’s room.

Anyone who was rounding with us that day, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure we were still in there when the second plane hit. I remember hearing the fear and shock in the female anchor’s voice: Oh, my God, Oh, my God, another plan has hit the World Trade Center… and then a little later, when it was apparent that people were jumping: Oh, my God, they’re holding hands, they’re holding hands.

My brother was a financial analyst in Manhattan at that time, and I didn’t know exactly where his office was. As the magnitude of the disaster became clearer, I became more panicked.

Our hospital had been put on alert, as we had a burn unit. The message we were getting was to discharge anyone we could and be prepared to take any injured overflow from the city. Everyone was running around getting their shit done, and all I could do was dash into the conference room to grab my cell phone from my bag and call my brother.

No answer. I tried again and again. I called my mother. She was trying as well. We figured he was at work, so we were calling his cell. Finally, she called his land line, and there he was, in his apartment. He’d pulled an all-nighter preparing some report, and as soon as he had hit “send”, he’d gone to bed, planning on getting to the office after lunch. As it turned out, his office was midtown, and he was never in any danger.

But I learned something important about myself: I was not someone who could put aside personal worries and stressors in order to focus on patient care. I had to really think about that.

Anyways, here I am getting all caught up in memories, as I was earlier this morning, when Babyboy snuck up behind me and saw that Time cover shot.

“What’s that burning building, mommy?” he asked.

Caught totally off-guard, I slammed my laptop shut and did some internal cursing. He’s only six, and autistic, and for both of these reasons, his thinking is very concrete. It’s hard enough to explain difficult subjects in a way he can grasp, never mind worrying about avoiding traumatizing him as well.

And, he is really intrigued by just about any accident, disaster, or weather event that we don’t manage to shield him from. I’m sure alot of kids are this way, but he perseverates until he has some kind of explanation for whatever it is.

And I had no good words for this one.

“Oh, it was a fire in a building, but don’t worry, it’s out now and everything is all right.”

“Can I see it again? I want to see it.”

Oh, goodness. It took advanced distracting skills to redirect his attention, but candy for breakfast did the trick.

No, these kids are far too young to be able to process pretty much any part of 9/11. We will talk about this someday, I hope in a way that allows them to ask questions and process.

Until then, I need to save my news perusal for my commute.

1 thought on “Remembering 9/11, and Hiding It From My Kids”

  • Damn. That was so disheartening to read. I can only imagine what it must be like to actually deal with a child’s curiosity regarding this. Specially when we ourselves as adults haven’t fully come to terms with it. (Heck I m still in the phase of using pronouns for that incident) :/

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