I had the privilege to visit the 9/11 museum in New York City this year for the third time in my life — this time with my husband.
I cry every time I go to the museum. Hearing Brian Sweeney call his wife “Jules” for the last time and tell her he loves her from one of the doomed planes.
Watching footage of witnesses completely lose it at realizing what they’re seeing when people have to do the unthinkable and jump.
Thinking of the first responders who knew the second building was doomed to also collapse at any moment, but who ran in anyways to try to help evacuate people.
Thinking of the poor man who probably blames himself after he told everyone in the second tower they were safe and didn’t need to evacuate minutes before the second plane crashed.
This time what I noticed differently was that there were kids in the museum. I hadn’t seen kids the other times.
I saw one little girl, no older than 7, walk while sobbing, in complete tears after her mom explained to her a lot of peoples’ mommies and daddies didn’t get to come home that day. She gazed up at the faces on the missing posters, distraught.
I saw a little British boy, about 9, ask his parents about the second plane and what it was like to realize the crashes were terrorist attacks. I saw one child around age 12 point to a framed handscrawled note on a piece of white computer paper that read “12 people trapped on 81st floor, send help” and say to his parents how horrible it was those people probably were never saved.
I was suddenly really proud of these parents for not only explaining to their kids the significance of that day — a day they have no memory of — but also showing the importance of it to them.
Showing them, ‘This is where these buildings stood. This is where almost 3,000 brothers, mothers, sisters, fathers, daughters and sons died. Some of them my age. Some of them your age.’
Showing them, ‘This is what that day meant to all of us. This is what it will always mean.’
Being about 9 years old that day, I vividly remember the adults acting weird. I remember watching the loop of the crashes and collapses over and over on our TV at home and my parents crying and the fear we felt and the anger my parents felt.
I remember the togetherness and the patriotism everyone in the country had for weeks after that. It didn’t matter if you were white, black, brown, Christian, Muslim, Jewish. We were Americans and no one could knock our spirit down.
Passing that onto the next generation, explaining that to them, showing that to them — that is something we must do. Take time to talk with your kids about the importance of 9/11 today.
If they’re old enough, maybe even watch one of the many documentaries on it online. Most importantly, make sure the next generation never forgets.