Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sharing Information, Tempering Fear: A Parent's Story

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sharing Information, Tempering Fear: A Parent's Story

Article excerpt

Her eyes held the questions that soon tumbled from her lips.

"What happened? What happened today?" she demanded as she stepped into the car after school on Tuesday.

Here it was. The moment I'd been simultaneously longing for and dreading.

All morning, as I watched the nation's worst nightmare unfold on live TV, I wanted her home. As images of kamikaze commercial jets, movie-like explosions, crumbling skyscrapers, and human horror unfolded relentlessly, I wanted my fourth-grader, Alexandra, home with my husband, Rob, and 20-month-old son, Zachary.

I resisted the urge to go and get her. Instead, I watched news footage and knew the ripple effect of this horrific act could claim the innocence of children like mine.

Now, here she was beside me in the car, safe, but not so sound. She held out a letter from the school, explaining that the children had been told there had been terrorist strikes in New York and Washington, but had not been allowed to watch any television at school.

The principal asked that parents talk through the events of the day with the students, answer questions, reassure them, and make them aware that counselors would be available at the school Wednesday.

"What is going on?" Alex asked again, as we pulled away from the school. "We are all wondering what happened. We want to know."

No, you don't, I thought. Not really.

Throughout the emotional onslaught of this day, I had kept my emotions in check. No tears - just shock, disbelief, horror, and unexplainable sorrow. Now

I was telling my daughter that some unknown group of people had commandeered four airplanes and managed to fly three into occupied buildings.

Alex asked questions that parents all over the country were faced with as children came home from school on Sept. 11: How could bad people get control of airplanes? Why would someone do this to our country?

She watched some of the coverage when she got home, did her homework, and commented occasionally about what had happened. Her softball game was canceled. She got ready for bed. I didn't know the hardest moments of the day were yet to come.

We summoned her at 8:30 p.m. when President Bush addressed the nation, thinking it would be something historic for her to see and remember. After it was over, she sat silently, tears starting to fill her eyes.

"I'm scared," she said, beginning to sob. "I'm really scared." We told her to climb in our bed, and I went to join her, not quite sure what I was going to say.

Still in tears, Alex released a torrent of emotions that must have been building over the hours.

How did we know a plane wasn't coming right now to crash into Georgia or somewhere else in the United States?

What if a plane was taking off right now from the Middle East to bomb us?

"What if I go to the bus after school tomorrow and see a plane in the sky? …

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