"Mom, how old do you have to be to give blood?" my 11-year-old son asked just before bedtime on Sept. 11. My brave son, who has never had a blood test and has obviously forgotten his terror of his last immunization needle six years ago, had been watching the news with the rest of North America.
My 9-year-old daughter Janette, who is forever writing me love notes, shoved a piece of paper at me as she kissed me good-night. "Just something I had to write," she mumbled, as she ran upstairs.
I glanced down at it, taking my eyes off the gruesome scenes that were flashing across the TV screen. When her grandma passed away in February, Janette had dealt with that tragedy by putting her feelings on paper. Now she was dealing with another tragedy, not in her own personal life but in a real part of her world.
Being Canadian neighbors to the state of New York is an exciting part of living in the small town of Fonthill, Ontario. To be able to travel freely back and forth to see a Sabres game or go to Six Flags always promised a good time. Now the essay I held in my hand, titled "American Disaster," ended with ". . . who knows if they will strike again? Let's cross our fingers that they will not."
The next night, my 8-year-old son Craig, couldn't fall asleep. I asked if anything was wrong and he said, "no." Since he is the strong, silent type, I said, "Don't worry about hijackers, we're safe." I tucked him in and then went off to bed to wrestle with my own doubts about our safety.
The world today isn't the same world we thought it was at the beginning of Sept. 11. A few minutes later, Craig was at my bedside in tears, saying every time he closed his eyes he was having nightmares. Although I had made sure he didn't take in too much of the terrorism coverage on TV, it was the only topic dwelt on at school the past two days.
So I did something I haven't done since the kids were babies and trying to make the scary transition from their crib to their own bed. I laid out a sleeping bag beside my bed for Craig. (My kids are all real squirmers and think sleeping in a king size bed means they can stretch out vertically, whether there are other people present or not.) He spent the night there by my side.
The sleeping bag will remain there indefinitely for any of my kids to handle their nightmares produced by the senseless, horrible acts of terrorism on those four doomed airplanes.
I think what we must take away from that horrendous day is that we need to keep things in perspective; to make what matters really matter. A news broadcast the other day showed a mother holding her baby and smothering her husband with kisses as he stepped off a train. He was one of the lucky survivors who had escaped from the towers.
None of us, when we leave home, is guaranteed a return. We should be constantly showering our loved ones with hugs and kisses. And donating blood. And writing heart-felt notes. And running to others for comfort, whether they make you sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag or not.
JAYNE THURBER-SMITH lives in Fonthill, Ontario.
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