Talking to Your Children About the Atrocities of 9/11

As the 10 year anniversary approaches and my children are finally old enough to understand, I'm faced with the question: Where do you even begin? We've compiled a list of resources that will help you navigate the murky waters.

Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001?

It's as clear as day to me.  I had just sat down at my computer, checking e-mail, beginning to respond to parent requests, when our maintenance guy came running down the stairs exclaiming that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. 

At first we all though it must have been an accident.  Then we heard about the second plane.  Clearly, this was an act of terror. I vividly remember asking myself...what else is coming?

Flabbergasted, I wasn't sure what to think.  Being a newlywed by six weeks and just out of college, I was completely floored, speechless.  The rest of the day still radiates in my mind as a complete blur, glued to whatever news coverage we could find. I watched in complete terror as the first tower fell and then the second.  How could this possibly be happening?

I worked for a fairly large church in Atlanta, one that housed a school of nearly 500 children.  I remember the talks amongst the staff...how do you explain this to the students?  How do you even begin to break apart the horrific events of that day to elementary school children, kids who's greatest concern is what their parents packed them for lunch and who they were going to share it with?

As a 23-year-old, I didn't think much about it.  In fact, I was thankful, at the time, that I didn't have to make those decisions or have any of those tough conversations. 

Fast forward to present day.  I have three children, a 6-year-old, 4- year-old and 2-year-old.  With the 10 year anniversary, I'm struck with the reality that the questions are coming.  They're finally old enough, at least two of them, to begin to comprehend the atrocities of that day. 

The questions have already begun as my oldest is starting to hear about 9/11 in his classroom.  So far, we're just scratching the surface.  How do you unravel the events of that day and the impact it's had on our country in the years that followed? That's a lot of ground to cover with children who have very little concept of true evil.  

While the images of that day are forever burned into my psyche, my children have nothing more than passing mentions in the hallways and classrooms.  I imagine it's much like I viewed history lessons on WWII. It's not real to them.

However, it is extremely real and even painful to me. How do I put that in words that my children could understand?  So I've reached out into great depth of the internet for expert opinions.

If you're in the same boat, struggling with what to say, I encourage you to check out these resources for help.

1. CNN - Teaching Children About 9/11


3. KSL Utah- Parents Need Sensitivity, Information

4. PBS- Classroom Resources, The Aftermath of 9/11

5. NJ.com - Ten Years Later

6. TodayMoms - How Do You Explain 9/11 to Your Kids?

7. Wall Street Journal - Explaining 9/11 to Kids

8. Family Education - Resources and Tips for Helping Children Understand

9. You Tube - How to Explain to Kids

10. Nickelodeon News - The Story Behind 9/11

Combing through these articles and videos has helped me better prepare for the conversations I'm bound to have with my children in the coming days.  I hope they will also be helpful to you as well.

William September 13, 2011 at 12:26 AM
As for the diseases, the Europeans (my own family came from wortenburg, Germany in 1865) didn't just introduce these diseases, they intentionally used them as a form of biological warfare, giving out blankets from the inferm in order to spread sickness and death with a smiling face and outstretched hand. Marijuana is not just native to north America...it seems most cultures had some medicinal herbs they enjoyed to a fault. One think the sailors did get from the new world (south America and the carribian islands) was rum. They found the sugar cane but couldn't get it back so they fermented it to rum for the voyage.
William September 13, 2011 at 12:28 AM
Wow, history, politics, architecture, physics, native Americans, racism, colonialism, drug abuse and alcohol - all from telling our kids about 9/11.
withavengeance2 September 13, 2011 at 03:41 AM
Oh, good grief, Charlie Brown! 9/11 is ALL ABOUT what you list, in one shape, form or another. I don't have time to refute all you wrote...just know that I refute it. I will say that if exploding jet fuel can't cause steel to melt, then blame the architects and builders of the WTC. Also, after this horrendous attack, what was America supposed to do? Gee, turn the other cheek? Gee, sit down and have a beer and talk it over? I think NOT. I'm very proud of our retaliation...only sorry it didn't get bin Laden on the first go round. I'm sure you still feel that Pakistan is our 'friend', huh?
withavengeance2 September 13, 2011 at 03:42 AM
I think you just may be a leftover hippie from back in the day...peace and love, man...
William September 13, 2011 at 05:58 AM
Interesting response. I will take a moment to respond to your response...or lack thereof. First, I don't make any claims as to what 9/11 was "all about"...I simply look at what was done to our constitution, our rights and our freedoms afterwards. Secondly, as for turning the other cheek...definitely not but I am against smacking the wrong guy just to make onlookers happy. The Taliban had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and our government didn't accuse them of it. We invaded their sovereign nation because we knew a single person was there and they refused to turn him over without evidence. It is that proud of our retaliation response that our government seemed to have been going for. We were attacked and we needed to show the world we were doing something about it...even if it meant doing something wrong. Third, we have been betraying Pakistan just as long (if not longer) than they have been betraying us...and we actively kill their innocent civilians on a regular basis and then say, "oops, our mistake. The wedding party of kids playing looked like terrorists through the drone's camera." And why didn't we invade pakistan if that's where bin laden was, that's why we went into afghanistan. We should have left one for the other based on that mentality


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