It came down to me to explain to my nine-year old (almost ten!) nephew why the flags were at half-mast today.
It was harder than I thought.
How to divorce the event from the emotion?
For him, it will be history. Just like many of you, I’ve taken history class. I’ve read about Pearl Harbor, the bomb blasts flaring through the pall of smoke off battleship row. I’ve read about Neil Armstrong clambering down the steps of the Eagle, becoming the very first person to set foot on an alien world.
But I do not remember them.
I remember that clear September morning. I was transfixed by CNN, watching those planes hit the towers, and watching them fall in a grisly cascade of smoke and death. I felt that cold pit drop through my stomach.
For him, it will all be learned, not remembered. And so I did my best to recite what had happened, stripped of commentary. When he wants to learn the full extent of the horror that man is capable of, he can plumb those depths and come to his own decision on what response is warranted.
But the thing that resounds most fully from that day is not the cold flame of vendetta, intense as that may be. Instead it is a call to seize this day, because you may not get another one. Stop trying to get “ahead”, and appreciate the now. Hold those you love as if it were the last chance you would ever have.
It might be.