My daughter wasn’t born on Sept. 11, 2001. She can’t say she remembers where she was and what she felt when planes flew into the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. We didn’t lose any family members or close friends that fateful morning.
To her, 9/11 is just a day when mommy cries a lot.
Now, my daughter loves to watch me give speeches, see me appear on television, and collect lanyards from all the events I attend. She even took a copy of Fire from the Heartland to “About Me’ day at her school. She loves to say that her mommy is “famous”.
I love my daughter.
However, this morning she really ticked me off. While I was out of the room she switched the television from 9/11 remembrance to Pokémon. When I switched it back, she smacked her lips and said, “why do I have to watch this boring stuff? It doesn’t matter to me.”
I remembered the story of Sean O’Neill, the most beautiful little girl who still sleeps in her father’s shirt because it makes her feel safe. Sean O’Neill never met her father because she was still in the womb when he died on 9/11.
At 8 years old, my daughter can’t understand this pain. She still has both of her parents and we hug and love her everyday. How am I supposed to make her understand the impact of Sept. 11, 2001, when she is too young to remember?
I told her about the towers falling….nothing. I told her about the fire fighters, police officers, and average citizens that ran into the burning building while everyone else was running away….nothing. I told her about the courage of the passengers on Flight 93 and how they refused to let the plane make it back to DC….nothing.
Finally, I pulled out her box of trinkets from all my events. “Why do you think I do what I do?” I asked my child with tears streaming down my face. “I could care less about speaking in front of crowds, appearing on TV, or having people celebrate my existence. Everything I do is for you. To assure you grow up in a free and safe America. I didn’t care enough to speak up until I had you to speak up for.”
I couldn’t make her understand Sean O’Neil but she woke up when I started to tell her about Malala Yousafzai. I told her the same ideology that inspired those men to fly planes into buildings killing thousands also inspired men to shoot a 14 year old girl in the head for wanting an education.
Under this ideology, her pink tutu would be replaced with a hijab. Her love of books would be replaced with service to her male counterparts. Her “Girl Power” would be replaced with subjection. Her rights as an American citizen would be replaced with Sharia Law.
Now my daughter understands exactly what 9/11 means to her. It was the day America was tested and not just our military, but ordinary people like her mother decided to stand up. We weren’t just standing against Osama Bin Laden, Sharia Law, and Muslim extremism.
We were standing up FOR the American way of life. The freedom and liberty that allows her, Sean O’Neill, and Malala Yousafzai to grow into strong young women with the world at their feet. We remember 9/11 not only for those we lost but for the next generation we must prepare for the continuing fight.
We teach those too young to remember but making sure we #NEVERFORGET….