As a young mother, I had definite ideas about how much television my children were allowed to watch.
We had a strict schedule with limited options: one 30-minute afternoon show before nap time. Only pre-approved PBS shows, and never, ever, adult television.
This particular morning, I was issuing orders about finding hair bows, putting away toys, and getting to the table for breakfast, when my husband called. He wanted me to turn on the television.
Inwardly, I sighed. He was traveling, so he relied on me for updates on weather and sports, but I figured it could wait.
I didn’t bother to hide my peevish tone. “Which channel?”
“Just tell me what you see.”
His lack of instructions caught me off-guard. I turned on the television and flipped through the channels, seeing the same story on each one. Slowly, I started to piece together for him – and for me – that a plane had hit one of the Towers in New York City.
As I narrated what I was seeing on television, and he told me what he was hearing on the radio, we agreed that some poor pilot had gotten terribly confused and crashed into the Tower.
The girls began to chase each other around the kitchen, which meant someone’s syrupy pancakes would end up on the floor, so I said goodbye to my husband and herded the girls to their proper places at the table.
After getting the girls situated, I returned to the television and saw a beautiful aerial view of New York City. Then, weirdly, I saw a second plane glide across the screen and hit the second Tower.
But what I saw made no sense. Was that footage of the earlier plane crash?
It wasn’t until I heard the broadcaster – several really – gasp, “What just happened?” that I realized something awful, something truly horrible, had occurred.
I sank into the sofa to call my husband.
“I’m coming home,” he said. “Do you have a full tank of gas? Do we have groceries? What about cash?”
I mumbled yes, yes, and yes, and let him disconnect.
The girls, now quiet and still, had left the table and moved to the couch. They cuddled into me and stared at the television screen.
I let them watch.
It is estimated that over 3,051 children lost parents on September 11, 2001.