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Sirens and Blue Skies

September 11, 2009

In September 2001 my girls were in elementary school, one just starting 3rd grade, and one just starting 6th (the older had celebrated her 11th birthday on the 10th). It’s not just those in their 20s and 30s who can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing on 9/11 – both my kids can, in the same way I can tell you where I was when I heard that JFK was assassinated.  Anyone who had children in school also knows exactly where we were when we learned of the attacks, because all you wanted to do was get to your kids.

For weeks after 9/11 the sound of sirens put me on edge. There were so many many sirens that day, and they were everywhere, and they didn’t stop for hours and hours. For several years one of my daughters thought of 9/11 whenever there was a totally blue sky, cloudless day. She was with her classmates canoeing on the Anacostia River that morning, which here in DC was a totally blue sky, cloudless day. A park ranger went out to tell them of the attacks, and they had to turn back.

In the last year, as U.S. wars have dragged on I have been startled to realize that my children are having a similar experience to what I had growing up in the 60s-70s during the Vietnam War. My children have really only known our country at war. They remember 9/11, and they don’t really remember much from a time when our country was not at war. This saddens me deeply.

What gives me hope however, is that they believe deeply that war is wrong, and that peace is possible. In her own way each of my daughters is committed to making the world a better, safer, cleaner, and more peaceful place. While we may hope our children share our political perspectives, what’s even more rewarding is to see that the values we seek to instill are taking root.

One of those is that love is stronger than fear. The day after 9/11 all the public schools, and almost all private schools were closed in the DC metro area.  Maybe for 2 days, I don’t remember.  My kids’ small Quaker school didn’t miss a day.  Staying open was a brave and important thing to do (though the head of school took his share of complaints!).  I was  glad that we could say to our kids and our families and ourselves that love and light are far stronger than fear and darkness.

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