And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people. — D&C 88:91
This know also, that in the last days, perilous times shall come. — 2 Timothy 3:1
How do you explain the September 11 attacks to a child?
My bright and vivacious nine-year-old son has tears in his eyes. He’s telling me what he learned in school about bad guys hijacking airplanes and flying them into buildings and killing thousands of people. As America was memorializing the 10th anniversary of the unthinkable, my son’s grief was fresh. How could this happen? Who would do such a thing? Why did all those people have to die? And what kind of world is this anyway?
As I listen to him, I find myself remembering clearly the shock of September 11, 2001. It seemed so unreal, so horrific, and so far away… I couldn’t even grasp it. I could only watch the news and stare as the towers fell—again.
The world was in a state of shock. Grief. Disbelief. But it didn’t hit home until the next morning, September 12, when I had my first ultrasound for my first child. A boy.
A child who will never live in a world where this didn’t happen. I spent the rest of the day grieving for the past my child would never know, and the uncertain future that he would have to face. What kind of a world am I bringing this sweet, innocent spirit into? How can I raise my child in a world where this kind of evil and suffering exists?
It’s a boy.
This boy sitting in front of me, tears of grief and disbelief running down his cheeks. He wants an explanation. And I have to answer him.
I’m on trial. The world is on trial. I am on the witness stand, testifying on behalf of an imperfect world, knowing that my son’s belief in humanity is on the line. I have to explain carefully and justify my choice to bring children into a world like this. Justify my decision.
Justify his existence.
And leave him with enough hope to live his life outside the shadow of fear.
I explain to him how evil men, full of hate, the exception rather than the rule, made choices based on that hatred, and killed thousands of people. We call them terrorists, because their goal was to create terror and fear—and in many ways they succeeded. But we don’t have to let them win. We don’t have to be afraid. In fact, the world needs love and joy and bravery and goodness more than it ever has before. It’s up to us to make our corner of the world a better place, to keep on living, to keep on learning, to keep on helping and loving and thriving no matter what evil men try to do. We need not be afraid. And their choices to do harm and create fear should not affect our choices to be helpful and kind.
I am a mother in an imperfect world.
This is my rebellion.
By choosing not to be afraid, I deny the terrorists their victory. I’m fighting back. I’m going to love, anyway. I’m going to raise a family, anyway. I’m going to reach out to my neighbors, anyway. I’m going to learn, work, serve others, and serve God, anyway.
And should something happen? I will have lived my life with no regrets and a clear conscience, anyway.
I put my hands on my child’s shoulders, taller than they were before, look intently in his eyes and tell him the truth: Evil exists. Bad Things happen. We will do our best to make the world a better place, anyway.
And they can’t stop us.