Explaining the UnthinkablePosted: September 11, 2011
A couple of days ago the little boy I watch told me, “Airplanes knocked some skyscrapers down.”
“You mean in New York City?” I asked.
He nodded. “Yes, some people flew them into the skyscrapers and they came down.” He thought for a moment, his face scrunching up with concentration, and then continued, “People got hurt. Why did those men do that?”
I sighed and looked out the window while I tried to think of the best way to explain the unthinkable tragedy of September 11 to a four-year old. How do you explain terrorism and religious extremists, the hatred those men felt towards America, and the confusion that came as the news spread across the country. How do you explain the thousands of people who died, the deep sorrow the country felt as it mourned in the following days, and the even deeper fear it felt in the months after? How do you explain the post-9/11 world to a kid born post-9/11?
My explanation went like this, “Those men were bad and they didn’t like us very much, so they wanted to hurt us.”
The little boy replied, “But it wasn’t nice.”
“No, it wasn’t and they were bad men,” I said.
He thought about it again and nodded with four-year old certainty; that explanation was enough for him. He then added, “I wouldn’t do that.”
“No,” I agreed, “You most certainly wouldn’t.”