I wrote this on 9/11

For some reason this morning we were goofing
around, Hannah said that library was the only class they
hadn’t had yet [in the new school year], so I asked, “Music?” and she said well
they hadn’t had that yet either, and then I asked
“Fire drill?” and she said they had, and then I asked
“Air raid?” and she giggled but didn’t know what it
was, and I told her it was a cold war thing and that
I’d have to explain it later. I’ve tried to explain
the cold war to her a little before. Someone once
suggested to me that it was a little like having someone
hover over your shoulder, just waiting for them to
scream “Boo!!”. And so tonight I was going to try to
explain air raid sirens, filing down to the school
basement and sitting crosslegged with our coats over our
heads, supposedly to protect us from the explosion, the
nuclear attack that could hit Schenectady at any time. I
was going to try to explain Russia, the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics, allies and enemies and a
world apart. Russkies. Commies. And I was going to be
able to explain it as something from a distant past, a
world she probably couldn’t understand, a world where
we were so uncertain and scared. As we judge the
terrible things that happened then, the witchhunts and the
saber-rattling, it’s so easy to forget that we were all
fundamentally scared.
And now instead I have to explain
that a terrible terrible thing has happened in one of
their favorite cities in the world, a place so close
that we think nothing of going there for a day. That
someone hijacked planes, planes to California like Daddy
flies in all the time, and used them to kill everyone
on the planes and everyone in the buildings, to kill
them because they hate us because we’re not like them,
that sometimes we hate them because they’re not like
us. And then somehow I have to tell them that they’re
safe, that they’re going to be okay, that my beautiful
8-year-old, my beautiful 5-year-old, are going to grow up
safe and healthy and live good lives in a wonderful
place and that everything is going to be all right.

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