Saturday, September 12, 2009

The 9/11 Retrospective

I imagine the American TV market is flooded with far more of these every year than the Norwegian one.  We get our fair share though, mostly on the cable stations--Discovery, History Channel, BBC Knowledge, and the like.

My kids use these channels as bargaining tools.  When I start grousing about how much TV they're watching--"ENOUGH SPONGEBOB ALREADY!  TURN! IT! OFF!"--they'll come back with, "Okay, but if we turn it to Discovery, can we still watch TV?  Huh?  Can we?  Can we?"

Grumble, grumble, grumble.  "Fine!  But no bullshit ghost or U.F.O. documentaries!  Find something about something REAL!"

Can you see where I'm going with this?

They watched 5 minutes of "102 Minutes That Changed America" before I wondered upstairs and realized what they were looking at. 

I just watched some of it on Google videos through that link, and I must say, it's pretty good.  It's all primary source video and voice recordings.  No editorializing.  No overly dramatic music.  No kooky conspiratorial angling.  Just recordings of phone calls, tourist video cameras, cell phone cameras, and news feeds in real time as the events unfold.  Very powerful stuff.

I made them turn it off.  Of course, Emma, who always has to know whywhywhy everything why, asked, "But Mom, what is this?  Why can't we watch this?"

They hadn't seen the airplanes.  They saw a lot of very scared people milling about the streets and lots of smoke billowing out of the buildings, but they didn't see the airplanes.  I really didn't want to explain about the airplanes.  So I told them very basically that this show was about a terrible thing that happened in New York, and a lot of people died that day, and it was awful, and I just didn't think it was a good idea to get into the details of it right now because it's so scary and hard for kids to understand.

They seemed to be alright with this except Daniel, who has this thing for labels, and names, and everything in its place.  He wanted to know what the buildings were called and if they were still on fire.  So I had to add to my condensed history that the Twin Towers, in fact, fell down that day.

And that was it.  They cleaned up their Legos, and went to bed.

But Daniel must have spent the night chewing over these details, because the first thing he asked me when he crawled into bed with me this morning was, "But Mom, how did those Twin Towers fall down?"

So I'm wondering.  How much should they know?  How much of the details of 9/11 are kids in America taught?  Are they told about the airplanes?  The hijackings?  At 7 years old?  At 9 years old?  How much terror is too much at so young an age? 

10 comments:

Stef said...

I have yet to explain what fully happened on 9/11 to Patrick. I think that the details would be too much for him. He is so sensitive. He would dwell on it and we would have countless discussions on WHY. Honestly I cannot explain the why and I do not think that he has the capacity to comprehend hatred on that level. Yet I do wonder if I should have that convo because the reality is that it is what it is.

So I guess that I do not have an answer for you but I thought I would give my perspective.

As for the Freudian thing, I am sorry to offend. I was actually studying theories and in particular Freud for my boards and I was annoyed anew by him. The picture tripped my annoyed response!

Stef said...

I should have said picture discussion. Can't type today.

JEDA said...

Stef--seriously, no offense taken. Both the original post and my response to the responses were heavily laden with sarcasm.

As for the 9/11 thing--I don't know, I guess one of my main concerns about going into the details of the hijacking business is, what happens next time we get on a plane? How many what if's am I going to have to answer from my overly inquisitive children. The what if's are something that freak me out every time I face getting on a plane myself. Examining them ad nausium isn't going to help, and I'm not sure I could hide my own uneasiness from them if we were to start getting into it.

But at the same time, I'm not a big believer in shielding the precious babies from the harsher realities of life. You're right, what happened happened. There are people out there who hate them just because they have American passports. But when do they need to know this?

American in Norway said...

I guess I never thought twice about telling Dane what happened on 911... he has seen the video.... we have talked about it... about where I was..where daddy was...when it happened & how it has forever changed America. I never went into details about how they pulled it all off... but we have talked about how brave the men & women on those flights were....

Anonymous said...

I too vote for not shielding them. If they ask, tell them. Let them see the bit with the planes. I had just picked up the kids from barnehage when it happened(around 3pm in Norway, right) - it was a news flash on the car radio - and right then it wasn't clear how 'big' it was. We went right home and turned on the tv and watched the whole monstrosity unfold. Yeah, with 2 kids at barnehage age. They knew it was real - that this wasn't some set up job - and I don't think it did any harm. I'd sooner they learned about it with me than from playground (or in their case, at that age, barnehage) gossip. If you don't tell your boy about it yourself, he'll ask his mates at school and get it from them.

La Dragon said...

I've talked with both my kids about it already, basically because of the fabulous book "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" (story about Philippe Petit -- subject of the equally fabulous grown-up documentary "Man on Wire"). It references the fact that the towers aren't there anymore, and I told the kids why. Not sure if this was a smart move, but the explanation I gave seemed to satisfy them. No idea if this will come back to bite me in the ass next time we're on a plane, of course, but it does seem like good fodder for conversations about tough truths... I know you're a sensitive enough parent and skilled enough communicator to be more than equal to the challenge.

La Dragon said...

I've talked with both my kids about it already, basically because of the fabulous book "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" (story about Philippe Petit -- subject of the equally fabulous grown-up documentary "Man on Wire"). It references the fact that the towers aren't there anymore, and I told the kids why. Not sure if this was a smart move, but the explanation I gave seemed to satisfy them. No idea if this will come back to bite me in the ass next time we're on a plane, of course, but it does seem like good fodder for conversations about tough truths... I know you're a sensitive enough parent and skilled enough communicator to be more than equal to the challenge.

S said...

both my kids know and I guess with being military there is no way in not telling them why Daddy is gone every other year. During the 2003 and 2006 deployments I did not watch news on the TV, so the kids didn't get exposed but with them being older now and asking more questions of the why I explained it to them. They know what happened, how it happened and that the result of this is the reason why daddy is gone for so much.
I believe you know what's best for your children and how well they will cope with the full coverage. I won't shield totally my kids from news anymore but I don't fret about it as well anymore and run to turn it off.

Sam said...

i was 10 when it happened and i remember it very clearly. the images of people jumping made me very upset at the time, but i dont think it was harmful in the long run. i certainly was able to appreciate the human cost of war and hate after that.

trace said...

Zoe saw the 9/11 remembrance book we have and was very saddened for the situation while looking at the pictures. She was concerned for the families and we discussed how sometimes really bad things happen in the world.

We go over things like that with her often, as she sees fire trucks and ambulances whirling down the street sometimes and sweetly, she immediately prays for the people - without any guidance. She just does it on her own as she colors in the back seat.

She is learning that hard times are a part of life, and that we all bond tighter in difficult situations. I see how Zoe has a deepened compassion within her as she is made aware of how people live in desperate, disasterous and hardship situations all around the world.

We sponsor a child from Kenya, and that has been a really good vein from which Zoe sees struggle, as in turn it grows her compassion and empathy for others, preparing her heart, if you will.