The Lessons 9/11 Can Teach Our Children

Today marks the anniversary of September 11, one of the most heart-wrenching days in our country’s recent history. You probably remember the moment you learned of the attacks, the gut sinking feeling you had when you realized the magnitude of what this meant when it wasn’t a random accident, the fear behind hearing of multiple locations and on that day wondering where the next one might happen.

In the days that followed, something amazing happened. We became AMERICANS again. American flags flew EVERYWHERE…cars, houses, and worn on t-shirts. People were just a little bit nicer, a little bit kinder. We were kindred spirits willing to be just a bit gentler with each other.


It’s on this day that we may want to share this with our children, a generation who in all likelihood was not even born when this horror took place. We want to pass along this feeling of trauma and how we overcame adversity….the depth of pride and camaraderie we all shared.

Our kids don’t get it.

They don’t feel this tragedy like we do.

They didn’t experience it. For them, it is merely another event in the history books.

We can use September 11 as an opportunity to learn how to handle tragedy with kids. It seems that, sadly and too often, we hear of horrible events unfolding in the news–school shootings, natural disasters, dangerous situations. These are the events that are very real and very now for our kids. One of the absolute best quotes I have ever seen to put tragedy into perspective for children is by the beloved Mr. Rogers. He said,

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

This quote is comforting in two ways. First, it helps us know that scary things have always happened. Fred Rogers was a boy in the 1930s. Sadness, crisis, and scary things happened even back then. The world is not getting worse despite the news’ ability to spread it faster than wildfire today. Two, it helps us focus on the positive. In the days that followed 9/11, it was the love of our country and our fellow man that struck a chord in me. It was the gallant pictures of the brave men and women fighting the fires, digging through rubble, and rescuing people that warmed my heart.

“When I was a boy I used to think that strong meant having big muscles, great physical power; but the longer I live, the more I realize that real strength has much more to do with what is not seen. Real strength has to do with helping others.” -Fred Rogers

Photograph by Roberto Rabanne From The Roberto Rabanne Archive

In light of any scary news–be it from the evilness of man or the devastation of Mother Nature, we need to encourage our children to find the good in people, the positive role models, the kindness and caring of everyday people. We need to show our children how we can, each day, make the world a little bit nicer place and let love prevail. These are the lessons to share with our children.

Debbie enjoys spending time with her husband of 14 years, Matt and their two very active children: Calvin, a gifted and quirky 11-year-old boy, and Kadison, a creative and strong-willed 8-year-old girl. Debbie attended the University of South Florida for both her bachelor's and master's degrees in education. With 20 years of experience, she's a National Board Certified Teacher in literacy and currently teaches 1st graders. Debbie's mission is to get kids to love learning! In her spare time, Debbie loves to read, enjoy the beach, and find the perfect cup of coffee. She is always on the look-out for a great local restaurant or fun place to go to relax! Follow Debbie on Twitter and Pinterest.