This morning on the way to school the radio station, like all other radio stations across the country, was discussing 9/11.
I knew the questions were stewing in both Maggie’s and Erin’s heads. They both had different questions, but they were strikingly similar. In fact, they were the same how and why we adults still struggle to comprehend. They both started asking things at the same time. Maggie knows what happened that fated day. Erin has heard “9/11” spoken of, but at the tender age of 8, has no real concept of the tragedy that took place.
I explained it as simply as I could.
“There were bad guys,” I began. “Really, really, bad guys.”
“And they did horrible things and lots and lots of people died.”
I told them about the planes. And the buildings. And the firemen. And the Pentagon. And the rebellious storming of the cockpit. And the empty field. And the bravery. And the loss. And the sadness.
I could feel the heaviness of their hearts. It was palpable. Somehow the simplicity of my explanation only made the events more tragic, inexplicable. I watched their eyes search mine in an effort to make sense of a tragedy I couldn’t lessen or minimize. There was nothing to be sugar-coated.
I let them sit in silence for a few moments, trying to process the unthinkable. Then I reminded them that there is always something good to be found – even in the darkest, saddest times.
I told them more about the day, and the days that followed. About bravery. And selflessness. And community. And compassion. And hope. And love. And survival. And miracles.
I told them about all the things that shined the brightest on that day, and the days that followed.
I told them about the remarkable buildings and memorial that have been built in NYC, right where the tall towers stood. I told them how somber yet beautiful it is. And then I remembered my favorite part of the memorial. And I continued.
“And … there is a tree.”
I explained to the girls that a tree … a single tree …. somehow survived all the destruction and death and devastation.
“It’s called the Survivor Tree,” I added. And I quickly remembered that I had taken a picture of it on my phone. In seconds Maggie thumbed though the camera roll and found the picture. The girls passed the phone back and forth with animated gasps, wide smiles, and bewildered hopeful eyes.
I explained that it was found. And cared for. And loved. And transplanted. And nourished.
And it grew. And thrived. It was life that survived that horrible day.
Miraculous. Hopeful. And as a host to a nest of doves, even peaceful.
Who could have imagined there would be such a hopeful symbol from such a dark day.
Small wonders never cease.