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Sunday Mornings With Rania: Are you Talking to Your Kids about 9/11?

Rania Mankarious
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9/11 bubbles up a great deal of emotions for me. My sister was in New York for New York Fashion week. 9/11 was the start of Day Four of the shows.

I was still living in Boston and was at our offices by 8:30 that morning. I remember sitting in traffic but it didn’t bother me a bit; it was a gorgeous morning. Life was good.

But shortly before 9 a.m., everything changed. News broke of the first attack: American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into floors 93-99 of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. We all paused in horror. As I jumped back in my car, news broke of the second attack: United Flight 175 crashed into floors 75-85 of the South Tower also killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building.

As I drove through Boston, I saw the masses of people exiting the Prudential Tower and the John Hancock building. There was this horrible sense of the unknown. What was next? The ride home was eerie; the look of worry on all our faces. Both my parents and I were repeatedly trying to call my sister. Phones across Manhattan were down.

In the days and weeks that followed, we learned of friends who had family members on those doomed Boston flights. We learned of friends we lost at Ground Zero. We remember the images, the planes making impact, people jumping out of the towers, people running covered in dust. I can’t forget the sounds, sounds of yelling as first responders worked, sounds of beeping from fallen firefighters, sounds of construction just collapsing.

It was a devastatingly tragic time but no matter where you were on 9/10 – on 9/11 your heart and mind was on the many lives lost. We were unified. We stood together for our flag; we cried at hearing our National Anthem. We were broken but we were strong.

As I write this 15 years later, I can’t say the same thing. And this makes me sad. I am sad that the current national climate is hovering around “black vs white” and “cop vs civilian.” I am sad that law enforcement and our military are vilified while they simultaneously take bullets for the best and worst of us. I am heartbroken over the real pain that disenfranchised members of our community feel every day.

I am sad that this is the environment my kids are being raised in . . . I long to show them the strength and deep American pride that existed in the post 9/11 world. That said, how much do you share with kids when it comes to 9/11, especially when it involves cities we go to often and means of transportation we take all the time? It may just be me, but I wanted a guide on how to talk to kids about that horrific day. I hope this helps:

For kids - usually 10 and younger – who do not have unsupervised access to the Internet:

Consider withholding information. For example: if your kids are still forming their thoughts on flying or heights, sharing the facts of 9/11 might create and solidify fears. Kids at this age are not yet old enough to understand the national efforts to keep airlines safe or the strategic work of entities like the TSA. What you can do: Tell your children that there was a national tragedy that we remember on 9/11 and share the positives. I show images of police officers and first responders walking people to safety.

For kids - usually 10 and younger – who have access to the internet:

You can’t withhold information. You have no choice but to talk honestly. While they’re not old enough to process what they are seeing, know that they are scared. Talk through what efforts have been made to make sure this tragedy doesn’t happen again. I would remind them of these efforts from time to time, just to address any lingering issues they might have with the horrific reality they have digested.

For kids 10+ - 15 – usually, these kids have access to the internet and can look up the details

Share the information truthfully. If they haven’t learned about it in school, they’ll know about it from their online social media use. These kids are old enough to digest the information of what happened but will not be able to put the international discord into perspective. I would tread on those issues carefully. Who attacked us? Why? Do people like that still want to attack us? Do they live in this country? Can they get on planes? Those are the questions you’ll have to make sure they understand the answers to. If there’s information you don’t know, research together. Most importantly, kids at this age can easily form an “us vs them” mentality. Make sure they understand that the “us” and “them” is hard to define and not to jump to prejudices or conclusions.

For young adults 16+ - here is where you’ll have the most fruitful conversations.

Share the full story. They know the details so walk through their questions honestly. Ask them what they think about local communities, law enforcement, the increase in military enrollment and the global issues. Show them how strong we were as a nation in the aftermath. What you can do: Challenge these youngsters to be part of the solution. What is their personal mission to make the world a better place? What can they do in their everyday lives that makes a difference? Here’s what I came up with to share with those who may be interested:

  1. Have a heart to identify social injustices
  2. Have the strength of mind and willingness to get your hands dirty while working toward a solution
  3. Show love and respect for others, listen to each other and
  4. Always remember both the sacrifices and desires of the person standing in front of you

9/11 is such a difficult subject. It represents both the best and worst in humanity. Join me in focusing on the good and honoring both the lives lost and the hard work of the first responders who rescued so many. In the best of us, their memories and efforts live on. 

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Editor's Note: Views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Buzz Magazines.

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