We added another new book to our 9/11 library this year. We use books as a way to understand all sorts of things, especially big concepts like the day that terrorist attacks on our country changed the world.
Do Not Be Sad: A Chronicle Of Healing is one that I am happy now resides in our library. Well, happy is the wrong word. I sob-choked through it when I gave it a read through the first time without the boys. Big, fat, soppy wet tears, snot running, general messiness; I’m a crier by default and this book really pushed that button.
As the book says on the front, it is a book of children’s letters and artwork sent after 9/11 from across America to Engine 24 and Ladder 5 FDNY. 24 firefighters from 24 and 5 responded immediately and 11 of them never returned. Mayor Guiliani used Engine 24 and Ladder 5 as a makeshift headquarters as it was just blocks from Ground Zero. As the days and weeks passed, letters began to pour in.
And they are in this book.
It’s heartbreaking, because there are photos of scenes that we all know, that are forever stuck in our collective memory. They are drawn by crayon, with markers or colored pencils. One is made on a 2001 computer, with awesome pixelation. They include letters of hope — “It will be normal again.” Words of honor — “You don’t need to know me to know that you are loved.” Concepts that give you pause — “I think the terrorists had bad parents.” Words that we understand as adults and wish our children didn’t have to feel — “This is what I saw from the window! I regret seeing it.”
And, oh the images.
There are the less violent ones — flags, the Statue of Liberty, firefighters with hoses, fire trucks, people helping each other, hearts and love. And then there are the ones that make your stomach turn because you know that children saw it, with their own eyes, that they witnessed the harsh realities of hate — planes flying into the buildings, fire, faces with tears falling down. It’s sometimes hard to turn the page, to see the reality of it all through the eyes of a child.
But it is important.
My sons responded well to the book. It sparked more conversation, which is always good.As I’ve written about over the years, we’ve chosen to talk about it, to read about it, to share things with them so that they might somehow understand. As this book was written by children, drawn by children, they were able to see things in a different way, not just in the sugar-coated, this-has-been-edited-for-kids-eyes kind of way some stories are presented about 9/11. It is real and in your face. There’s a lot to see; you could sit with the book for hours.
I imagine we’ll sit down with it tonight, before I choke my way through our favorite, Fireboat. If you’re looking for other books about 9/11 to help your kids understand, I shared a number of them last year on BlogHer. However you choose to teach your kids about September 11th, allow them to ask questions, even the ones that make you uncomfortable. It is a great learning experience for them — and sometimes a bit healing for you.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost eleven years ago. We also stand in honor and remembrance of the 343. I encourage you to help support the National September 11 Memorial, which we visited in August.