Last summer I was traveling with Bryce. As we waited to board our return flight he lamented that he would really like to see the cockpit. "You used to be able to do that," I said, "until 9/11."
The look he gave me let me know a question was coming, but it wasn't the one I expected. "Is that the month and the day or the month and the year?" Bryce is 10. How do you explain the horrors of that day without frightening a grandboy? And how do you honor the fallen without an explanation?
What followed was a very abbreviated explanation of what is my life's current event and his dust-covered history. Hijacked planes lead to the security line we had just wound through that keeps us safe. Locked cabin doors are an added precaution. That September day was, in part, what caused his father to join the Marines less than a year later. It occurs to me now, that indirectly, that uniform lead to his parents meeting. Absolutely unaware, unanticipated and unlikely, 9/11 and the chain of events to follow, lead to the birth of my eldest grandboy.
I have long thought that 9/11 is the Pearl Harbor of my generation. It offers me a glimpse into my grandparents' cautious nature. The indelible mark left by great, sudden and senseless evil gave my Granmas and Grampas a wariness for the world my siblings and I just called life-as-usual. They feared for our future, for the possibility of history repeating itself. One Granma lived long enough to see that fear come true. Did she spend 9/11 remembering Hawaii and the subsequent entry into the Great War - a war that left her to care for three small children while her husband sent letters home from Europe?
I don't know where this meandering leads me, really. Though I feel two generations older now, as I watch my grandboys and girlies running in the yard, pausing occasionally to point out an airplane passing far overhead. I remember the weeks when the shiny birds held the ground instead - and the day when they sounded above again and a shiver went down our spines as we looked up and watched them glide by.
I don't want to forget. And I want this twice descended generation to know this piece of their dusty history, too. In truth, though, I want it always to remain history to them. But like those who came before me, how can I believe that? I can't. I can only hope that a blanket of love will protect their hearts. I'll just have to do my part to keep them covered.