The world changed Tuesday morning. A thick cloud of smoke and dust still hangs heavily over the New York City skyline. Firefighters and emergency personnel are responding to crises in New York and Washington, and who knows where else. Confusion and concern dominate the nation’s airwaves, as America collectively grapples with . . . what? No one seems to know for sure.
As this is being written, the full extent of the tragedy is unknown. But this much is certain: the world changed Tuesday morning.
Lives have been lost. Families have been forever impacted. Businesses have been destroyed. And the cultural landscape of the world’s most free and secure nation has been altered just as surely and just as permanently as has been the physical landscape of New York City.
The events and images of this day will remain with us, burned into our minds and souls, for years to come. We will all remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news, just as earlier generations remember Pearl Harbor, the day President Kennedy was shot, the Challenger disaster or the Oklahoma City bombing. Sept. 11, 2001, will join other dates of infamy among the historical landmarks of our generation.
This is a troubling time for all of us. It is a time of uncertainty and fear. We are going to see horrifying descriptions of death and injury. There will be angry cries for revenge and retaliation. As a nation, we will hurt. We will mourn. And we will try to make sense of it all.
It will be a challenge, even for the greatest minds and most astute observers. But it will be especially difficult for our children. As much as we’d like to, we can’t shield them from all of the horrible realities of life. They will see and hear what we see and hear. They will feel everything we feel — and then some. And they will watch us, and take their cues from us. How we respond to this tragedy will affect how they will respond, and to other times of crisis they will surely face during their lives.
That’s why it is so important that we as adults respond carefully. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that there are a few things we can do to help our children — and ourselves — cope with times of wide-spread crisis: Watch TV news reports with your children. They are going to be just as interested in what’s going on as you are. So watch together, (for a limited amount of time) and then talk about what you see and hear. Try to help them understand, as much as possible, what they have seen.
Talk with your children about what they are feeling. There is no one right way to feel at times like this. We feel what we feel — that can’t be controlled. It isn’t as important WHAT our children feel, as that they be given the opportunity to talk about it, and to deal with it.
Mourn with your children. We all grieve in our own way. Some do it with tears, others with laughter, others with silence. Let them grieve, and let them see your grief. And then talk about it. Share it. Experience it together, even if you experience it differently.
Pray with your children. This is a time for faith, a time to draw courage and strength from our beliefs, whatever they may be. Gather your children and pray for the victims and their families. Pray for the men and women who are risking their lives in rescue efforts. Pray for the medical personnel whose skills and endurance will be sorely taxed in the coming days. Pray for the president and all who will be making decisions regarding the appropriate responses to these acts of violence.
And while you’re at it, pray for the rest of us. After all, we have to live in this world.
And the world changed Tuesday morning.