Operation 9/11 Evasion

September 12th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  7 Comments

Also not true

This weekend past was a successful one for our city of New York, inasmuch as we were not victims of a new devastating attack. And my wife and I celebrated our own little triumph. We successfully lied, evaded and obfuscated enough to keep our kids completely ignorant, at least for this weekend, of 9/11, of its anniversary, of al Qaeda, of mass murder, of religious fanatics, of people jumping from buildings, of illegal invasions, of the existence of either John Yoo or Paul Wolfowitz or any other of the many things that go bump in the night.

Not that it was easy to maintain these omissions in Manhattan. Thousands of police reportedly kept an eye out for three middle-eastern men “potentially driving a van” (unnerving the large numbers of middle eastern fruitsellers and furniture movers who actually drive vans in New York), but our kids didn’t notice the checkpoints. On Sunday morning, a three-helicopter convoy that sure looked like it included Marine One and our President flew over our neighborhood, but the children were still asleep. That afternoon, we passed several thousand motorcycles rolling south down the West Side Highway, and we said it was just a parade. On Sunday night, during a commercial break in the Jets’ stirring comeback against the Cowboys, the Budweiser Clydesdales bowed in reverence toward the World Trade Center, but the children were already in bed, and I was left alone in my cups wondering if we can build a Gitmo for ad execs (if so, let’s throw the guys who made this Hooters’ 9/11 tribute in a couple Hooters-orange jumpsuits as well).

Our daughter is five, young enough that we were able avoid having to have The Talk about 9/11, but this will probably be the last year we can get away with it. She was already close to discovery, we think, because she complained Friday how the babysitter doesn’t let her watch grownup television shows like the “movie” she wanted to watch more of “about a city that was being destroyed”. And I’m writing this in the early morning before her third day ever of Kindergarten at the public school down the street where, if I remember my own public schooling correctly,  by lunchtime she will have learned all about 9/11, been taught how to cook heroin, and been fully debriefed on that German Craigslist pact where one man volunteered to be eaten by another dude in the ultimate act of erotic BDSM cannibalism.

But today’s parents are on a mission to protect our children from an ever-lengthening list of indecencies, so it seems natural to lie about 9/11. And although a friend reminded me yesterday to reread Po Bronson’s 2008 New York article about the infectious nature of parental lying, I am not ready to convert to radical honesty with my kids. Maybe it’s a selfish reason: any cloud that knits my daughter’s brow troubles me as well. I wake up with her when she has nightmares. Remembering 9/11 can be such a rabbit hole of despair (try not getting enveloped in that gorgeous sorrow looking through Time’s 9/11 portraits and interviews, for example) that I just couldn’t drag my girl down there with me.

Even without her factored in, I haven’t had any stomach for 9/11 remembrances. It’s a half-discussion that doesn’t interest me. We can collectively remember the dead, but can’t really talk about what followed or why we are still entangled in exactly the wars that Bin Laden wanted us to goad us into. Which is to say, 9/11 is depressing because so many people died that day and because I still have friends who are being deployed to these endless wars and there seem to be no winners. I don’t believe, as Tom Segev argued in Haaretz, that the decade  since has been one of inexorable decline for the U.S. But this was not a great decade to behold.

With a crucial exception. Midway through that decade, I had one child and then, a couple years later, another. Yes, I know: they will grow up to disappoint me. As adults, I’m sure, they will eventually go on Craigslist looking to be consensually slaughtered or to eat someone whom they themselves will slaughter. The whole thing will be recorded on video. But until that day, and certainly right now, they radiate a kind of goodness and innocence that has been so missed in the last ten years for me.

Let everyone else obsess about 9/11. My kids are still living in September 10th. Who am I to nudge them forward?


  1. jzzy55 says:

    September 12th, 2011at 11:27 am(#)

    Good for you. I think you did just the right thing.
    When I brought in my morning newspaper today (I don’t live in NYC or even NY, but a small town in NE), I was hoping for 9/12/11 to be Just Another Day, but no, it had to be a rehash of yesterday’s maudlin celebrations. I don’t know what 9/11 means besides the fact that a lot of people died and the US was attacked. I have yet to read anything that has helped me understand, nor have I visited the WTC site even once.
    I can wait to try to understand, just like your kids can wait. Understanding is temporary anyway. The way you might explain it today won’t be the way it will be talked about in another 10 years when they’re studying it in US history class.

  2. Nathan says:

    September 12th, 2011at 12:31 pm(#)

    Yeah, I noticed those 9/12 newspapers too on the way to school with the girl this morning. Lots of weeping on the front covers. So I wasn’t quite out of the woods. Good thing she shares my complete oblivion to the world around her…

  3. scottstev says:

    September 13th, 2011at 6:21 pm(#)

    My oldest, on his third or fourth day of 1st grade, is obsessed with 9/11. It’s as abstract to him as the Civil War or trains. He gets so excited to recognize details on the news and in the paper, just like when he can recognize a helicopter, or sees a shark doc on TV. He has no idea how close it feels to those of us old enough to remember the day itself. For him, it’s relegated to the far-distant past; which for a six-year-old, it is.

    The one uplifting part was when he compared Rick Rescorla to the Iron Giant and the bad-guys to Mr. Mansley.

  4. Nathan says:

    September 14th, 2011at 11:41 am(#)

    Col. Rescorla would be proud of the association, no doubt. Strange to think that yours is just a year older and is totally immersed in it, while (through this morning at least), Dalia has no idea about it. That will certainly end soon enough. Maybe we should throw on the Iron Giant as a vehicle for talking about the attacks. Or just use Star Wars analogies like we do for everything else…

  5. scottstev says:

    September 14th, 2011at 2:06 pm(#)

    It soon will be. On the plus side, you can run an actual soccer practice with 6yo’s as opposed to organized random free play and back talk that you get with the younger ages. The most disturbing thing the kid is doing, is building Lego models and pictures of the events. It’s kind of a kick in the balls to wake up with an excited kid showing you his drawing of two burning towers with people crying “help.” And I’m not trying to be flip; that’s what he’s doing and it freaks me out. But, to him, it’s just another bit of history he enjoys learning about.

    “The Iron Gian” beats the entire trilogy hands down (and that’s excluding the first three to make it fair). Mr. Mansley is the most human representation of evil in a children’s film and Christopher McDonad’s best work in a fine career of playing movie dicks.

  6. dadwagon says:

    September 16th, 2011at 10:16 am(#)

    Fascinating. I guess that’s sort of a good sign. He’s not so traumatized by everyone else’s PTSD that he views it as different than the battle for Richmond, to take an example. And thanks for the tip about Mr. Mansley. I have been a little disappointed in the flatness of the evil dudes in most children’s movies (their motivation as characters is so often undercooked). That’s part of why the kids dig on Star Wars, I think. Maybe they’ll get into this Mansley guy.


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