To paraphrase David Lee Roth and Oscar Wilde sometimes something is too important to be taken seriously.
If I have a way of viewing life, that saying pretty much sums up the lens I look through mostof the time.
There are some moments, though, that it is impossible for me to avoid taking seriously. Some are personally horrible and some are external.
Into that latter category falls hearing the air raid sirens in Jerusalem when Iraqi Scud missiles were being hurled at Israel in Gulf War 1. Another one of those horrible moments is 9/11.
In both cases I felt a fear I had never felt before. On that score, I was exactly like many other people in North America.
The thing I was afraid of the most was how to explain it to my then 7 year old daughter.
Tuesday, September 11th was a regular midweek visit day and we had planned on going to the bank to open her first bank account.
I first heard the news on my drive into work. There was a television in the executive director’s office that a couple of managers were already watching and like so many people that day I saw the images over and over again. That was exactly what I didn’t want my daughter to see. I didn’t want her to see it once.
In fact, I wanted the afternoon together to be normal.
My heart wasn’t into going to the bank, but doing what we had discussed doing seemed the best way to pretend and cover up.
Of course the tellers at the bank were distracted and upset and people in line were making references to the events. Rumours were still rampant that more planes were going to be used as missiles and sometimes people mentioned that in the bank.
When we sat down in the manager’s office to open my daughter’s first bank account I was horrified to see a tv on right behind our heads. The manager couldn’t take her eyes off it. How to keep my daughter from looking the screen became my most important job at that moment. She believed me when I told her it was a grown up show and looked only once.
After the bank, we went home and then the next challenge became what to watch on tv while dinner was being prepared. That was our usual Tuesday after school routine and there was no way I wanted to break our routine.
My daughter only watched TVOKids in those days. I have a dim recollection that we might have watched Arthur and Magic School Bus. What I do clearly recall is watching Patty (that would be Patty Sullivan who is on CBC now). She was doing the most amazing thing I ever saw on live television; she was not talking about the events. Instead, she was telling kids that if they had seen or heard something upsetting that day and needed someone to talk to they could call the Kids Help Phone. Listening to Patty gave me enough strength to ask my daughter if anyone at school had been talking about upsetting news that day. The answer was no and that helped me to let go of a little more stress.
If the answer had been yes, I know we would have discussed her feelings, but I am not sure I would have told her what my feelings were.
After taking my daughter back to her mom’s, I made a phone to the one person I needed to talk to for a little reassurance: my father.
Here was a guy who had not only fought in the war, but he was a paratroop. Even though I was 38, I had some notion that my dad was never afraid of anything. I told him I was afraid for what it would mean to my daughter, but I am pretty sure he knew I was just plain scared about everything. He told me everything would work out. Things were bound to be tough because the terrorists clearly had smart tactics and people but things would work out because they always do.
At that moment I realized that what my dad was doing was what I had been doing with my daughter: preserving the normal.
Looking back on it, I am not sure it was a great moment in parenting, but keeping my word to open a bank account seemed like an act of strength in the face of what I really felt.
Thinking about the events of that day, I recognize that the fear of that day was short-lived and very specific. I can’t begin to imagine what someone in New Orleans felt after Katrina or someone living near Fukashima feels or a woman who has fled to a shelter feels.