The Shadows Of History

With today being the 13th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that killed around 3,000 people, and have affected just about every aspect of American life and government since, I am re-posting this entry from my old blog, which ran shortly after Osama bin Laden was killed in May 2011.

Like then, I still wonder how much September 11 will matter to my daughters, who are 4 and 5, by the time they are old enough to learn about such historical events.

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My wife and I had just finished bathing both of our daughters and getting them to bed and we were ready to call it a day. It was Sunday, May 1, and another weekend was over.

As it is after every weekend with our toddler, Maddo, and our eight-month-old baby, Little Sis, my wife, The Thoroughly Awesome Ms. Crums, and I were pretty much wiped out. These days, we are never far behind our girls when it comes to turning in for the night and this night was no exception. Almost as soon as Little Sis finished her final feeding, we hit the sack.

But, being a social-media-networking narcissist, I had to take one last look at some photos of Maddo I had posted earlier on Facebook to see who had either liked the pictures or commented about them. My wife was already asleep when I turned on my iPad and opened up my Facebook page.

And that’s when I learned that Osama bin Laden was dead.

At first, I thought the status updates from my friends were jokes. After all, we had been hunting bin Laden down for nearly a decade since 9-11 and couldn’t find the guy. He hadn’t put out any videos on Al-Jazeera in several years. I halfway believed he was already dead. I honestly thought the Facebook posts were probaly referring to a “Saturday Night Live” skit from the previous night.

Then I checked out some news sites. Sure, enough, it was true. Earlier in the evening, President Obama announced that we…and this is definitely a case of where “we” meant not just the Navy SEALS that did the actual deed, but all of us Americans…had launched a raid into Pakistan and killed bin Laden.

“HOLY SH*T!” I exclaimed, loud enough to wake my wife. She was drowsy and afraid I would wake the baby. But she became immediately alert when I said, “We killed Osama bin Laden!” We then watched a couple of videos from news sites, which showed parts of the President’s address and scenes of thousands of people celebrating at Ground Zero in New York and outside the White House. My wife fell asleep. I got up and watched TV for a while and, I have to say, shed a few tears of happiness before I turned in.

The next day, several things occurred to me. The first was that we had missed the news about bin Laden because we had been bathing our daughters. The world definitely goes on when you’re focused on your kids. The second was that I first learned about us killing bin Laden via a social networking site and that I spent nearly an hour in bed looking up information online before I even thought to get up and see what was on TV. How we get our news has definitely changed.

However, more than anything else, I wondered about just how my daughters would view this era of our history, how horribly it began on Sept. 11, 2001, and how it ended, at least theoretically, with the death of bin Laden.

The only thing in my own life that I can equate to 9-11, and its possible impact on my daughters, is the Cuban Missile Crisis. This occurred almost six years before I was born; nearly the same length of time between 9-11 and Maddo’s birth. My dad was in the army at the time of the Missile Crisis and would tell me how, as a paratrooper, he had to sleep on the base runway, under the planes, in order to be ready to invade Cuba as soon as the word came down. We all know how close the world came to annihilation during those days of the Missile Crisis, and the prospect of such an event occurring was a distinct probability for much of the following 30 years.

That’s quite a shadow for one event to cast over your life, especially one that you weren’t around to experience.

Maddo was born in 2008, while Little Sis made her debut in 2010, meaning that the world that has been defined by 9-11 and bin Laden existed for at least seven years before either of them were part of it. As they get older, I wonder what will they think about 9-11 and how it impacted their world?

Will they think about it when they have to take off their shoes to go through airport security?

Will the images of the planes hitting the Twin Towers be replayed on TV during 15, 20 and 25-year anniversary specials about 9-11?

Will it have any impact on their psyches when they are busy with school events, learning to drive and the certainly nerve-rattling-for-me experience of boyfriends?

Will it matter to them?

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