How to tell your kids about September 11, 2001?

Last spring, I was tutoring a student in Cerritos, California.  We were going over his homework, which for a ten year old fourth grader included fractions and a book report.  We were getting close to the end of the session.  From out of nowhere, he randomly asked me, ‘Who is Osama Bin Laden’?He asked this question in such a way that I could see he really did not know who Osama Bin Laden was and as children are inherently curious people, he really wanted to know.

I asked him, ‘Do you know about September 11, 2001?” His answer was no; he did not know.  It was hard to believe and it took me a moment to bare in my mind that he could only have been a tiny baby when the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred on September 11, 2001.  It was still difficult to believe.  I remember my first grade teacher at Forest Edge Elementary School in Reston, Virginia telling us about nuclear war.  Her analogy was that the grown-ups who might engage in nuclear war were like children fighting over candy on the playground.

I wanted to answer his questions and felt that it was odd that the public school he attended would not introduce him to the attack that occurred in his country when he was only a baby.  I told him a few things but also told him that he needed to talk to his mother and hopefully he could see for himself from news footage what occurred.  Perhaps he could hear the family members explain what happen when their loved ones called them from a United Airline or American Airline cabin to say that their plane has been hijacked.  When his mother came to pick him up, I let her know that he had asked about September 11, 2001 and that he wanted to know who Usama Bin Laden was.  I hope his mother will answer his questions and I am disappointed that the public schools in America are not answering these questions students have earlier on in their lives.

We definitely need to attend the school board meetings and make sure that history, no matter how difficult it might be–no matter how close in time it might be to us, must ultimately, be told to our children.

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