Originally posted Sept. 11, 2008
This morning I turned on the television before I even got out of
bed and propped myself up on my squishy pillow, ready for my
Waltons fix with the kids before school. Before they
ran in to snuggle with me under the covers I channel-surfed to make
sure the sky wasn't planning to fall, like I always do.
('Cause if it's gonna fall, see, I figure we'll just hunker-down
under my old quilts for two back-to-back episodes of The
Waltons followed by two more of Little House on the
Today, though, on Today, I got to relive the morning of
9/11 all over again. I'd all but forgotten that today was the
anniversary, and sat transfixed once again by the annual re-run of
the very same newscast I watched in horror seven years
ago this morning. Holly was an infant and Noah was just
three, and back then our family rented a tiny little ranch in a
rural southern town where everyone knew our names. Concerns
I'd never before considered pierced my
"all-is-right-with-the-world" Mommy bubble. I wrote the
following column a couple of weeks later, following the first
No longer can I fool around with the expression "germ
warfare." Until recently, I used it to refer to that icky
thing that happens when little kids with green boogers deliberately
spit into my tea. Instead, no longer innocent in my whimsical
use of the vernacular, I hear myself saying new things that before
"That Day" (9/11) I wouldn't have said - Like
today, when Noah decided to pitch a fit because I wouldn't let him
drink directly out of the quart-sized milk bottle like Daddy
sometimes does. How did I respond? I told him that if
he was going to have a temper-tantrum he would have to get out of
I think too about my rather carefree way of being in the
world and wonder if I should make some changes. Should I lock
my doors? Should I handle my mail with gloves and a
facemask? Should I even bother to open the mailbox
anymore? Like other parents, I consider the scary
possibilities of war and wonder, for what should we prepare?
Should I keep a few essentials and changes of my family's clothing
in the car in case we need to evacuate? Do I need to have my
little ones fitted for facemasks to protect them from the evils of
bioterrorism? It quickly occurs to me that those masks are
probably useless against invisible attacks, lest we wear them
'round the clock, so I decide instead to strive for a healthy
balance between prudence and frivolity. On that note I think
I'll store a few extra boxes of Holly's favorite cereal, rice and
bananas, just in case they're needed - but perhaps I'll
start feeding it to her from those china teacups I've been saving
for special occasions.
We're learning that no time is more special than the
It seems I'm not alone in my efforts to make sense of recent
events. I've watched as my little boy works it out in his own
mind, too. In spite of my intentions to limit Noah's
television viewing the day of the terrorist attacks, my own need to
stay informed and be a voyeur to the destruction won out. I
know, I should know better. I hate to admit that he saw the
planes crash into the World Trade Center towers more than a few
times, resulting in his concern that his stuffed animals might not
survive a similar attack on our home (translation: "Would
I have also been awed by Noah's natural impulse to
help. The day after the attacks, Noah asked if "Bob the
Builder," a character from one of his favorite television shows,
might be of assistance now.
"Can Bob the Builder help build it again?" he
inquired. "I can use my screwdriver in my toolbox to screw it
in and hold it up," he said, after watching the towers fall down on
television. "I can help with Daddy's tools. I'll have
to ask Daddy if I can hold his drill," he considered, melting my
heart. This little boy with a big heart who still remembers
the rules, surprised me with his healthy, productive responses,
while I sat immobile on the couch, stunned by the enormous losses
he is thankfully too young to understand.
Later that day one of the networks aired a short documentary
featuring some of the tragic images from New York
City, filmed in black and white by two
Columbia University film
students. Set to a classic, melancholy melody, it was a very
moving piece. Apparently, even Noah was touched, but in that
innocent way of one still too young to fully comprehend its grave
meaning. As the mournful music played on, accompanied by
scenes of smoky gray pain and sorrow, my tiny son took my hands in
his and asked, "Dance with me, Mommy?" Mindful of the fact
that so many mommies and daddies who lost their lives just the day
before would never again know the joy of dancing with their own
children, I gratefully and tearfully accepted his
"Yes, baby, let's dance."
(Originally published in our then-hometown newspaper, The
Franklin Press (Franklin, North Carolina).
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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