twin towers

The Potato is a post-9/11 kid, born in 2003. I mention it, because one of his favorite books lately is Mordecai Gerstain’s The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. It’s a delightful book, about Phillipe Petit’s walk on a wire between the towers in 1974. We’ve been great fans of Gerstain’s work since the Bee fell in love with his The Old Country. His picture books, including this one, are great.

It’s raised, though, the question of how to describe the fate of the Towers to our kids? The Bee was only two when it happened–she doesn’t have any memory of the event. She has a vague notion of terrorism, mostly from airport security measures, and she knows about the war, but she has no sense of the horror of that day.

I was born the year that both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. I’ve often wondered what it was like for my parents, feeling like the world was falling to pieces around them, and trying to decide how they would one day describe it to me. I suppose my grandparents had the same feeling about Pearl Harbor, and how they would make my parents understand the horror of the attack.

Of course, for both of my kids, the Towers will always be gone, just as for me, Dr. King has always been killed. It’s not just the big tragedies of life that pass into history, it’s also the little things, but the tragedies seem so much more important.

I’m glad, in a way, that there are years between the events and the telling. There’ll be a lot of seasons in which to figure out how to tell them.


January 7, 2007. books for kids.


  1. Margaret Donovan replied:

    That the Towers will always be gone is not a matter of course. There are those who are dedicated to the proposition that there is no good reason, only lame, selfish reasons, to fail to rebuild and we are going to prevail — for the sake of the children. They were not just buildings, they were symbols of a grand spirit that we cannot abandon. Mr. Petit wrote to the Twin Towers Alliance last September and said, in part: “I continue to think your efforts are commendable and worthwhile…” and retierated the promise he made in his book to repeat his walk when they again “twin-tickle the sky.”

    The Twin Towers inspired greatness and those who saw banality where others saw breathtaking beauty were simply exposing their own spiritual meagerness. This is a fight we will not lose. I hope you will visit our website and add your name to ours. We can still keep a terrible tragedy from being compounded by a terrible mistake.

  2. Heather Bea replied:

    I think about this topic quite often. Not the telling of the twin towers, but more of how to discuss war with my girls. I can’t comprehend trying to explain it to them for several years, but I know the time will come and I am scared about doing it. I think about what is going on now and, I too, compare it to parents having children during the wars of our past, how did they explain it to their kids? Did they have an overwhelming hope that their children would help bring peace and possibly eliminate warin the future? I have that hope but as history repeats itself it is hard for me to have faith in world peace. I am actually more freaked out about explaining war than I am the birds and the bees.

  3. Daydreams and Musings replied:

    Of course, for both of my kids, the Towers will always be gone, “just as for me, Dr. King has always been killed.”

    That reminds me of all the conversations I had with older colleagues when I was in my 20s – every once in awhile people would start talking about where they were when they heard about JFK’s assassination. Their jaws would drop when I’d say “I wasn’t born yet.” I imagine our kids will have similar experiences in 20 years.

    Although these tragedies help mold who we are as a nation, the personal impact is limited to those who were alive (and old enough to remember).

  4. landismom replied:

    Ms. Donovan, I think you’re applying a very literal interpretation, and missing the spirit of my post. The point is not that the towers cannot be rebuilt (oh god, for the sake of the children!), but that we can’t go back in time to when they were never destroyed in the first place.

  5. Library Lady replied:

    I am a born and bred New Yorker, and like most New Yorkers I regarded the Twin Towers as a pair of ugly buildings dedicated to the greedheads of commerce. But they were a part of the skyline and I always looked for them when heading home to NY. And going home the first time after 9-11 and not seeing them was devastating.

    SC (12 next month) knows about the towers–in fact, my sister-in-law took her to Ground Zero a year or two back. But she wasn’t raised knowing the Towers, so to her, it’s not the loss it is to myself or my husband. And JR was only 2 when 9-11 happened, so she really doesn’t know much about it. For her it will be a history lesson along with reminiscences from her uncles who were eyewitnesses to the whole thing.

    Margaret Donovan and her kind are kidding themselves if they think any rebuilding is for the sake of those of us who were used to the sight of the towers, much less for our children. It’s commerce as usual in NY, and the plans being made are for profit, not for healing. No REAL New Yorker, cynical race that we are believes anything else!

    If they’d wanted to do something for the kids, they’d have built a beautiful park on that land with a thoughtful, healing memorial akin to the Vietnam Memorial here in DC. But that wouldn’t have been a profitable use of such high cost real estate, would it?

  6. Library Lady replied:

    Oh, and if Ms Donovan wants to see true beauty and the “grand spirit” of New York, it’s still there. Thank heavens they took the towers and not the Empire State Building.

    And if she wants to see the spirit of the towers, it’s alive and well in New York too. It’s called Trump Tower….

  7. penguinunearthed replied:

    My son Chatterboy was born two days after 9/11, so last year I showed him the anniversary pictures. I glossed over the part about why it happened – just talked about how a plane flew into a building and it fell down. We’ve been reading a lot about mediavel castles and stuff lately, so he’s kind of starting to understand about war – I think it’s just going to be a gradual process as he fills in the gaps and grasps it.

    I was born a few days before the Israeli six day war (although not nearby), and my mother was born (in London) just as the British were retreating from Dunkirk, so its a bit of a tradition in my family to be born while the world is changing in scary ways. Certainly the experience of having Chatterboy then made me think a lot about what it must have been like for my grandmother, and then all the people having babies in actual war zones, constantly.

  8. Margaret Donovan replied:


    It sounds as if I am twice your age, and obviously not on the same wave length…

    Happy New Year!


  9. Jeff replied:

    hi there,

    just stumbled in here. interesting topic. I have a girl, nearly three, and we have not discussed the war or the towers. the tv is rarely on, so she does not see/ask about the images. we watched the mid term election together and she heard a lot of “thank goodness” and “stick it to ’em” and “way to go virginia” but we only touched on the voting process and the need for a change. ugly politics in small doses is all i care to expose her to, ugly wars and terrorism can wait. she will have to deal with it the rest of her life, no need to start at this age.

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