Simple Questions, No Answers

By Scot Petersen  |  Posted 2001-09-24

On my 5-year-old sons dresser, there usually stand, in order, small metal statues of Chicagos Hancock Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Twin Towers. He and his brother play with them daily, often engaging Lady Liberty and the Twin Towers in casual conversation or in hand-to-hand combat.

Then, the Twin Towers came down. My son carried them with him around the house for much of the week as we tried to explain to him what had happened.

His questions were simple: "Who knocked the towers down?" "Why did they do it?" "Did anybody die?" The answers were not so simple. We told him bad men did it, and we dont know why, and yes, people did die. But his grandmother, who lives across the river in Brooklyn, was safe, as were his other relatives there.

We gave him the Twin Towers model last spring, a souvenir we picked up on the way to a wedding on a cruise ship docked across the street from the World Trade Center.

At the time, I looked up at the towers and hoped that I could take my family to the top to see the view, as I had when I was a kid. Now its all gone, and along with it thousands of lives have been destroyed.

We picked up some other icons—the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building—to dole out some other day. When he gets them, I wonder what he will say. Will these buildings fall down, too? Will bad men come again?

How will I answer him?

Since the "sad day," as we call it, he has changed the way he plays with the Twin Towers. Now he flies pretend airplanes into them.

We wondered how much to let him see of the coverage, but the truth is the only way. We cannot lie to him or try to cover it up. But he will also see, eventually, TV footage of children his own age in other parts of the world practicing with real guns to kill Americans. What should I tell him then?

That the world is a wonderful place? I think thats the only thing I can say—and then hope that his generation will help make it so.

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