A few months ago I settled in with my six-year-old and selected a book from the pile that we had brought home from the library.
Our selection was this one:
And as I start reading the first page, I realized this was based on the story of the tight-rope walker who saw the Twin Towers being constructed in 1974 and considered it an invitation to string a cable between the two and do his thing. The man, Phillippe Petit, was arrested after 45 minutes of aweing the crowd gathering below with his dancing and running and kneeling on the high-wire.
His punishment was community service in the form of entertaining children in Central Park.
It was a sweet story. Then on a page near the end, was the illustration of the light beams which had replaced the towers, with the text, “Now the towers are gone.”
Nolan honed in on that quickly. “Why are they gone?”
I took a breath, thinking.
He pressed on. “Why are they gone, Mommy?”
I submitted a no-frills response. “Some airplanes flew into them and it made them fall.”
And with that, he let me off the hook.
I know that the day will come that I will have to do my best to explain to him the monstrous things that people do to one another. In the coming years his innocent mind and heart will become littered with knowledge of massacres and lynchings, the Holocaust, and war. Of child abdunctions and worse. I’ll find myself in the position of explaning not only the what, but also the why. And how do you explain the why so that a child can understand it when you can barely grasp the why yourself?
But for now, this short time, I am blessedly off the hook.