Today marks the 17th anniversary of 9/11. I was teaching 3rd grade at the time and remember hearing about the attacks on my way to school that morning. So much was still unclear and while the rest of the country was glued to the television to try and find out what was happening, I remember having clear instructions not to discuss anything with my students because so much was still unknown. I recall struggling to get through the day as if everything was normal while anxiously awaiting news of what was happening to our country.
I can also just as clearly remember grappling with how and when I should share the events of 9/11 with my own children, who were born several years after the attacks. My husband and I struggled with how to teach them about such an important event without scaring them. I think it’s a struggle every parent faces whenever there is a Columbine, Newtown, Las Vegas, or any other soul shaking attack. We want our older children to be aware, empathetic, but not fearful.
Our community lost a hero, Thomas E. Burnett, Jr. on September 11, 2001 when he helped thwart terrorist’s plan to crash flight 93 into the White House. Every year my friend, Jen, gathers a group of families to honor his memory and the memory of the other 3,000-plus victims at an overpass bearing Tom Burnett’s name to wave flags on the anniversary of 9/11. Joining her last year, visiting the Heroes Garden at Burnett’s alma mater, Pepperdine University, and taking time during a NYC trip to view the new One World Trade Center and talk about the events of that day have been ways our family has attempted to teach our children about this day in history. I’m curious how other families have dealt with this topic?
One resource I have used when I question how to share a tragic event with my children has been www.commonsensemedia.org. THIS article provides a plan for discussing even the worst of the worst in a way that’s age appropriate, that helps kids understand, and that doesn’t cause more harm.
If you are looking for ways to talk about the heroes of 9/11 as a family HERE is a list of books for kids that express curiosity about the attacks. You can click on the individual books to find out the recommended age level and suggestions for discussing the book as a family.
Our family was touched by the heroism and selflessness depicted in the two videos below. We first watched them when my daughter was in 5th grade and her teacher shared the links on the class website. I thought you might enjoy viewing them with your family today.
Note: Please preview all books and videos to make sure that the content and images are appropriate for your child
Remembering the victims of 9/11 and their families today and always 🇺🇸