Look for the Helpers
Yesterday, I wrote about my personal feelings about the attacks in Boston last week. But I feel there’s a lot more to be said about what this means for our next generation.
When 9/11 happened, my little brother Travis was just 2 years old. The following year, I was staying with my dad in NYC and we visited Ground Zero. It was eerily quiet, and a sense of peace had settled over the zone. You could almost hear the spirits whispering. We read the plaques setup there. We had a moment of silence. Then Travis, a precocious 3 year old looked at my dad and said “Daddy is that where the airplanes were broken?” Tears filled my eyes as he paused, and finally responded “Yes, that’s where the airplanes were broken.”
My niece Olivia is 3 years old, the same age Travis was when he tried to comprehend the worst attack in U.S. history. Her daddy is in the army and often called to “go fight the bad guys”.
In the photos and videos of the Marathon, there were children standing around, cheering on the runners. Cheering on their parents, aunts, uncles and friends. Wide eyed and innocent. All of that gone in an instant. Instead of watching runners finish, they watched people die. They watched people get maimed. They witnessed a horror no human being, let alone a child, should ever witness.
What do you say to a child who just lost his leg? Who just lost her 8 year old brother? Who watched it happen on TV? The only thing we could do. We thought back to the comfort of our own childhood hero, and quoted Mister Rogers. “Look for the helpers.” Show them that there are good people in this world.
Shit like this just didn’t happen when I was growing up in the 80’s. Our worst tragedy was Mookie Wilson’s dribble down the first base line that went through Bill Buckner’s legs. My sister and I went to grade school without fear of being shot by another student or by a madman. We went to day care as small kids without fear of being blown up. We went to the movies without fear it would be our last. We cheered on runners at the finish line. We were truly innocent. It wasn’t until my teenage years into young adulthood that shit really went to hell. Places or dates you only have to say once and everyone knows what you’re talking about. Waco. The World Trade Center. Oklahoma City. Columbine. Olympics. 9/11. Fort Hood. Colorado. Newtown. Boston.
Children today don’t know a world without violence. They have been deprived of innocence. Of that blissful naivete in believing that world really IS a good place. A peaceful place. And we are peaceful people. That has all changed. For those at the movies in Colorado. For those who were playing Tag in the schoolyard at Sandy Hook Elementary. For those attending a daycare at a Federal Building in Oklahoma City. For those passing notes in the classrooms of Columbine. For those whose mama or daddy kissed them goodbye as they headed for work at the World Trade Center. For their friends and their classmates. For those cheering at the finish line.
What can you do? What can you say? Look for the helpers. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be okay.