Twelve Years Ago

"I was in 8th grade. Chorus class. My teacher was called out of the classroom for a moment and then came back in - I don't recall if she was crying but I do know she was visibly shaken. She said that planes had hit the World Trade Center buildings. I remember not really understanding what was going on and feeling really frightened about that. 

In school we did not watch any footage - I'm assuming they were trying to protect us from it (or give our parents the option to show it or not, probably), but in all honestly it made everything more confusing and scary. Like they wouldn't even give us information. I was told nothing else by the school about the tragedy all day - teachers avoided answering questions and tried to proceed "business as usual." Students, however, were trying to get information as best they could, and the rumors that were going around about what happened just added to the overall atmosphere of confusion and fear.

One of my classmates' dad is a pilot (not on either plane, thank God, but of course she didn't know that at the time) and she was crying inconsolably all day, worried about him. This was before all 13-year-olds had cell phones.

All in all it was a pretty powerless, isolated day - in general, because we knew there were big, horrible things going on (which in itself is pretty terrifying) but also because it felt like no one would tell us the truth.

When I went home and talked to my mom, she explained everything she knew and even though the facts and footage were definitely horrifying, (as awful as this may sound) I felt a lot better. I think sometimes, in trying to shield kids, people forget that young people are perceptive and feeling like adults won't tell them anything makes the world seem like an even scarier place." 

This morning my friend Becky made a post on facebook asking where people were when they first heard about the September 11th tragedy.  I spent a lot of time composing my response (posted above) and realized that, as a person who works with children and now lives with one, I encounter experiences (although not usually as profound or tragic as 9/11) where decisions must be made about what and how much to tell the children in my care.  Although I am a firm believer in keeping information age appropriate, it was also interesting to look back and think about how hurt and confused and frustrated and scared I was that day - knowing that something was going on but not being given any information about it. 

***I'm sure that my teachers were given explicit instructions from the administration about what to say and what not to say to students, so I'm not in any way blaming them for not telling us anything, I'm just talking about how it felt to be on the other end of that.***

I know it can be difficult to tell children about these sorts of tragedies - when Christopher and I talked to J about what happened in Newtown, it felt bizarre, scary, almost wrong to be speaking about these things to a child so young.  And yet, having age appropriate, informative dialogues can actually make children feel more aware and ultimately safer.  

It was just interesting to realize and remember that my fear that day did not come from worries about being attacked, but from feeling that the world was an unsafe place and the people I viewed as mentors and protectors were intentionally keeping information from me.  Now, as an adult who works with children, I think it's important for me to remember what that felt like and keep in mind that I am a mentor and a resource for the children I work with, and I need to consciously be that for them, even when it's difficult.

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