How Children Who Can't Remember 9/11 Won't Ever Forget

by Suzannah Kolbeck

On September 11, 2001, I realized that giving birth to my then-16-month-old daughter had been a huge mistake.

I breastfed Sicily exclusively until she was 6 months old and then continued until nearly her second birthday. Her baby food was organic and handmade, and her baby products were all organic, made of only natural fibers. Her entire environment was non-toxic and safe. I read baby books on attachment parenting.

I did everything correctly.

However, I realized as I sat with my hand over my mouth and tears in my eyes, that I would never be able to protect her from the reality of a world where people would destroy strangers' lives upon principle.

A world where a beautiful sunny day could be shattered in an instant by four planes: two in New York, one in Pennsylvania and one in Washington, DC.

As parents rushed around the city to scoop up their children from school and daycare and squeeze them tight, I let her stay where she was. I sat frozen on the couch in an empty house, watching the endless tragic loop, listening to the broadcasters' voices crack when they realized that people in the towers were leaping to their deaths in favor of burning alive or waiting for the inevitable.

I couldn't bring myself to go pick up my sweet baby. That would mean that even before she realized it, the end of my ability to protect her had come. The day had come for her to see fear and pain and sadness in my face to an extent far beyond anything I had ever experienced before.

I did pick her up. I did squeeze her. I turned off the news and we played games that I don't remember. I made a big pan of lasagna and drove to a friend's house so we wouldn't have to be alone. After Sicily went to sleep in their spare room, my friend and I sat and drank wine, quietly.

Being with people helped. Earlier in the day, I tried to call her dad, where he was captaining a supply boat in the Gulf of Mexico, and couldn't get in touch with him; later that night, we cried on the phone together and told each other how much we loved each other.

I think we all lost a sense of normalcy and safety in the world on September 11, 2001. I think that everyone, for at least a little while, stopped taking things for granted. People were kinder and more tolerant for a few weeks. However, it didn't last long.

At least on the surface, impatience returned, as did planes, when the airspace above the United States re-opened. I remember driving to my parents' house and hearing the first plane in days; the sound felt alien, yet welcomed.

I remember thinking that people would again go back to their small lives and the lessons of the past few days would be quickly shoved aside.

Then I realized that even if people return to their distracted, unkind and dismissive ways, no one would ever be the same. Children of the millennium would be raised in a world much different from their the one in which their parents grew up. Something had shifted.

As I snuggled with my sleepy baby in bed the night of September 11, 2001, I knew things had irrevocably changed. People had irrevocably changed — even if they didn't yet know it.

Sicily started her freshman year at Baltimore City College this fall, and whether she and the class of 2018 know it or not, they are coming into a world that is vastly different from the one that existed when they were 2 years old.

I hope I gave her the kindness and strength necessary to be able to make to make a difference.

We talk about September 11 every year so, so even if she doesn't remember, she will never forget.

Photo Credit: Getty Images