9/11: Too soon to be locked away in children' history books

Parents and caregivers should consider these 7 steps for talking to children about 9/11 and keeping the memory of that day alive especially for those who were born after that day or have no memory of it. Photo: AP Photo/David McNew

WASHINGTON, DC, September 11, 2012  - Many children today have little to no memory of the September 11, 2001 attacks eleven years ago. But they know about it. 

News organizations replay horrific images of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings, the seemingly indestructible buildings collapsing.  People covered in dust, crying, running and others plummeting to their deaths.

The scorched earth in the bucolic field in Pennsylvania.  The gaping hole in the wall of the formidable Pentagon.

The events of September 11, 2001 are studied in school. All of which are traumatizing for children, and adults, to see. 

About 700 children lost their parents during the September 11, 2001 attacks and among that group were dozens of children born after the attacks occurred. 

Kids today are growing in a world where there are rigid pat downs at airports and uniformed armed guards on commuter trains are normal. Where rather than being just told to watch out for strangers they have to be warned to be on the lookout for suspicious looking people or abandoned bags. 

A new normal includes awareness of terror group “Al Qaeda”. And for Arab and Muslim Americans who wear traditional religious garb, the new normal also includes being gawked at with suspicious stares when they are out and about.

And as each year passes; it appears that less people are reacting with the same passion.  The date is creeping towards the memory vault with other tragic past events like the December 7, 1941 Pear Harbor bombings during World War II.

An American flag is stuck into the etched name of Father Mychal F. Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, at the National September 11 Memorial in New York Monday, Sept. 12, 2011. The 9/11 memorial plaza opened to the public Monday for the first time. (AP Photo/Mike Segar, Pool)


But 9/11  doesn’t have to become a distant memory, just another page in the history book so soon.

Parents can pass on to their children an awareness of the day and how it is being used to celebrate the lives of the victims and the resilience of America. 

Brown University researcher and psychiatrist Richarde Rende offered some tips on how and what to say to children about September 11. 

“One of the big challenges of being a parent these days is figuring out how to discuss tragedies with their children because they are exposed to them via media on a repeated basis,” Rende said. “It’s something that you can’t control, typically, but it’s something you have to be prepared to discuss whenever it happens. The anniversary of 9/11 is somewhat unusual because you have some time to prepare.”

Consider these steps for the talk:

  1. Don’t wait for your kids to approach you; let them know the lines of conversation are open.
  2. Set aside a time to do this when you won’t be quickly interrupted.
  3. Answer simply and directly. Less is more. Be honest without being graphic.
  4. Listen to the kids and let their questions guide you. Don’t broach new subjects they haven’t asked about.
  5. Be reassuring. Give them the confidence that they’re okay.
  6. Monitor their exposure to media as best you can.
  7. Be prepared for the conversation to continue after the anniversary.

Everyday represents an opportunity to connect with children. Ask them how they are feeling and if there is anything they have seen or heard that gives them concern. Be ready and be open and honest.

It can be a solemn occasion to draw closer to them as well.

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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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