Visiting the 9/11 Memorial with a Six-Year-Old

I wasn’t ready for this question. I planned this trip so carefully. I calculated how much time we would have each day, the distances between our points of interest, weighed the pros and cons of each based on the preferences of each member of the group. But I didn’t plan my answer for when Daniel, my six-year-old son, asked me what the 9/11 Memorial was.

Should I tell him the truth? Should I distract him by showing him how the water flowed down but didn’t fill the hole? Should I just say it’s the 9/11 Memorial and hope he didn’t insist on an answer he understood? I had no clue what to do.

I decided to tell him the truth. We huddled together by the edge of the memorial as my husband and I began to tell him the story — the tragedy, how it’s important to remember, and how it is equally important to heal. We showed him the names around the memorial and pointed to the new towers.

He was quiet. Pensive. Listening to every word and almost surprised we were actually telling him this story. It was nothing like the stories we tell him at home.

He was quiet. Pensive. Listening to every word and almost surprised we were actually telling him this story.

Sometimes it’s really hard to explain this world to him. Sometimes I wish I had a better story to tell. But this turned out to be one of the most memorable days of the trip for Daniel. He came home and began to build his version of One World out of legos and yells out “One World!” whenever he catches a glimpse of it in photos or on TV.

That is one of the things I love most about travel. It can start conversations that we would normally never have. It opens our eyes to the world and shifts the focus from ourselves to those around us.

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