11 September 2009


I think about John every day, of course. I think about grief every day, too, sometimes as an abstract concept and sometimes in direct relation to how much it still hurts that John is gone.

Today, eight years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I've had grief in general and my own loss on my mind more than usual. John's death was, of course, not related in any way to what happened on 9/11/01. But throughout the day, as I would think of John, I would also think of how many people became widows or widowers, how many people lost children, parents, husbands, wives, partners, sons, daughters . . . friends, loved ones. People die every day. People experience loss every second. But to experience so much loss, in such a cruel way, in what amounts to an instant, that is rare and almost incomprehensible.

I was struck this year by how little seems to have been done this year to remember those who died on 9/11. I don't recall mention of it on NPR as I drove in this morning. I confess that it was not at the forefront of my mind this morning, not until Maddie and Riley asked me if I would read them a story before I left. They chose a library book I'd never read to them before, one they'd picked out while with our nanny. It was the story of a little girl whose dog dies. It was a well done book (wish I could remember the name, and it went back to the library today, darn), truthful without being scary or overwhelming, not at all pandering, not motivated by fear. After reading the book, Maddie, a girl who has emotional maturity that most adults will never attain, was very clingy. She didn't want to give her nanny—who she loves—a hug, she wanted me to carry her out to the car to say goodbye, she wanted to go with me to work, she wanted to snuggle me. She happened to be holding a stuffed puppy, one of her many plush companions.

"Are you worried that pink puppy might get sick?" I asked. She'd been peppering me with questions about why the dog in the story got sick, why it couldn't walk anymore, why it slept all the time.

"Yes," she replied, holding her puppy closer.

"Pink puppy is not going to get sick, Love. Stuffed animals don't get sick like that. They don't die."

That seemed to reassure her, at least enough that she let go of me so that I could climb in the car, and gave me a smile and wave through the window when I rolled it down as I pulled away.

The conversation did spark something that made me remember that it was 9/11. And it made me think of John. And loss. And grief. And how the pain may fade, but it never truly goes away.


CV said...

Hi, friend. 9/11 is SO intense when you think about the enormity of it for those involved. Interestingly, I remembered it was the 11th on my way to work with NPR. During my short ride in I caught a story-corps episode where a retired fire-fighter talked about the two sons he lost that day. They were 34 and 36 yrs old, both fire-fighters, one of whom had taken on his retired badge number: 3436. It was one of those mornings when I had to sit quietly and cry for a few minutes by myself before leaving my car when I got to work. It was 8:46, I guess the exact moment the first plane hit.

Perhaps the coverage changes on the west coast because the moments that mark the actual anniversary of the attacks don't occur during the morning coverage on pacific time.

Also, I just learned today that 3.5 is a common age for kids to become obsessed with ideas of death, aging, dying, if they're wired to be that kind of kid. Hold on to your hat, you're probably in for a ride with maddie.

Many hugs, cv

Kim said...

I thought the lack of coverage was so odd. It was the third story on the Today show yesterday. I guess it's life going on...but still.

I always remember this woman who was on TV that day searching for her fiance and her brother who each worked in a different tower (I think fiance in north and brother in south, but that's neither here nor there, I guess). Both of them died. She was just so desperate.

Bert Bell said...


The pain can go away if you give it to Jesus daily. God promises to turn our mourning into dancing and our sorrow into joy. If you daily hand over your hurt and disappointment of your loss to Jesus, He can take that pain away and turn it into fond memories of a wonderful man you shared your life with even if seemed a brief glimmer of time. When the Holy Spirit is done, every time you remember instead of crying you would dance in rememberance and celebration.

Every year I make it a point on Sept. 11th to pray prayers of comfort over each family affected by the bombing of the towers. That the families would let the Holy Spirit in to their pain and that He help them turn the mourning into dancing. It is a sad day and I agree should be remembered because there were many left behind here on earth that still yet grieve. Many hugs, many prayer, many blessings!

mames said...

yesterday did seem less focused on a remembering of the day and more focused on some really irrelevant news stories. can our american collective subconscious not hold on long enough to bring that day forward?

we watched the movie the visitor last night and it brought a grief of a different sort to my heart. it is about a syrian immigrant and parts of it made me so sad...how much changed in our perspective of people after 9/11.

nyc was my home for 5 years during college and i have not been back since 98'. but i still remember waking in oregon and watching in disbelief. and i still think about those families, the loss. such loss.

Watercolor said...

I think the lower coverage is indicative of a sense of moving on and having healed a good bit. We remember, but we don't have to relive and dwell. As a nation anyway, if not for the specific families involved...? Maybe?

Sarah said...

There was some coverage on NPR Friday morning, mostly about the memorial services. I suspect you might be noticing a difference between West Coast and East Coast time zones and sensibilities. I heard that 9/11 coverage was still inescapable in New York and surrounding states.

It's inevitable that 9/11 will slowly fade in our cultural remembrance, just like Pearl Harbor and Armistice Day (in the US). As in all sorrow, that doesn't mean we have forgotten.

OTRgirl said...

It's actually been good to be here in New York City for 9/11. Last night the classical station played pieces in honor of the date. The announcer had covered for someone the evening after and did a great job remembering. She played "[Something] in memoriam: Benjamin Britten" by Arvo Part. Beautifully haunting.

Sounds like you handled things with Maddie really well.

Sadia said...

I think we're watching history we lived turned into textbook history. I'm sure that a different generation looks at our academic distanced view of the Holocaust with similar disbelief.

It's wonderful that you've found tools to talk about death in an honest way. I have to admit that I've avoided doing so. I wish I could carry all the worry for my husband during his Iraq deployments myself, but I know that my daughters will too soon be old enough for the fear to become part of them too.

Crash Course Cardiologist said...

My kiddo (4.5 years old) is obsessed with death and is constantly asking questions about it... "when am I going to die?"... "when are you going to die?"... "when is grandma going to die?" It's really hard, and especially when you have smart kids like ours, the questions only get harder. Just a really challenging part of parenting. One step at a time.


Aimee said...

You're right about the limited coverage. Next year will probably be the same, with a surge on the 10th anniversary.

We watched the documentary on the History Channel. I was physically ill (nauseas) during and after. Basically, it was video shot by people in NYC that day. I told Hubs I never wanted to watch it again.

Wonderful way of handing Maddie's fears. I think that as kids grow and have a better understanding of things/concepts like death, the more knowledge and the more reassurance they need. If you recall the name of the book, please share.

Amy said...

Lack of coverage? Maybe because you don't live on the East Coast? We live in NJ and work in NYC and you could not get away from it. In fact. for us especially, we would have liked a bit less.

I understand the importance of remembering, I do, but it's very hard for me (and the hubs) to watch any of the old footage or even listen to a memorial service. I feel nauseous when I think about that day and what we went through. (We were still living in NYC in 2001)

I don't need TV coverage to remind me.

Death is a tough subject with kids. It's a hard concept to grasp sometimes. I think you're handling it really well.

Mary Ellen said...

I think we've read that same book -- does the little girl plant a tree in the end? I find it incredibly moving, in fact I've had to wipe tears from my eyes at the end, but my 4-year-old finds it... interesting. Just plain interesting.

What children think about death no doubt has a lot to do with their personal experiences. My daughter -- so lucky!! -- has lost pets, not people.

Right now, she likes the idea that her dead mice, birds, moles, etc. turn into dirt and then the dirt helps things grow. I don't know if she'll find that particularly comforting in years to come, but I hope so.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

On the East Coast, I heard some coverage, but there was a lot of how u say? chatter online.

I like having the personal, emotional, community-driven talk one gets in social media. The fact that there was not pervasive coverage elsewhere may go partway to explaining why people aren't into the newspapers and TV news much -- it doesn't pick up on their interests much.

Just to really overgeneralize (hey, what else are national tragedies good for?) it's pretty intense to me that 8 years later we're still in 2 wars and neither of them really had anything to do with 9/11. History does seem to have been rewritten.

Here's how Shorty and I talk about 9/11 -- via a gorgeous Maira Kalman book: http://tinyurl.com/q2cwbs