Jack walked into the living room to see a photo of a beautiful young woman in a silver frame. It sat on a small table across from the sofa accompanied by other smaller photos featuring the same woman who he knew to be his aunt, yet he had never met her. There was a quiet solitude shared by the small grouping of photos as two flames danced about in the glass panes from the candles set amongst the frames.
The boy’s father walked into the room and set down one more photo. “Why are there all these pictures of Aunt Heather?” Jack asked his father who looked at him, sorrow in his eyes. His father grabbed the leather ottoman and pulled it up to the table motioning for Jack to join him.
“Today is a special day. Do you know what today is?” his father asked.
Jack searched his mind but could not come up with a good guess. “Wednesday?” he asked.
“Yes. Wednesday the eleventh of September. Eighteen years ago, September 11th, was on a Tuesday… Just like today, it was a beautiful day. But on that beautiful day, there were some bad people that did some bad things.”
Jack, only six years old, looked inquisitively at his father, not quite understanding what he was talking about. “Why?
“Well, it’s complicated.” His father replied, paused, then continued “On that day Aunt Heather was on a flight home and one of the bad men took over the plane she was on and crashed it into a building in New York city.”
Jack didn’t speak for a moment, consumed with this unwelcome news. “Was she scared?”
A tear rolled down his father’s cheek. “Mommy and I have wondered that same thing, many times. The truth is, it probably happened so quickly that she didn’t have enough time to be scared. At least that’s what we hope.”
Now the questions began. His father knew the barrage of questions was upon him and intended to discuss them regardless of his apprehension. It was critical that Jack understood.
“Will it happen again? Will bad people attack with planes again?” Jack asked.
“I don’t know, but people all over the world try to prevent it from happening again, but the truth is, there will always be people out there that want to hurt others.”
“Why didn’t Aunt Heather stop them?”
“It’s not that easy Jack. They were very strong and it was a very confusing and scary moment.”
“Why do people hurt people? Don’t they have kids? Don’t they have mommies and daddies too?”
“I don’t know son.” His father said cautiously.
Jack thought about this for a long time and then decided to go out to his tree house. He climbed up the ladder and saw his friend Elaine, seated on a chair. “Hi.” He said meekly and sat down beside her.
“Do you know what today is?” she asked.
“Uh huh. It’s Wednesday.”
“It’s nine eleven.” She replied despondently matching his somber presence.
Elaine looked at Jack, “Why do you suppose people hurt all those people back then?”
“I guess they were angry?” He replied.
“Why couldn’t they just talk? So many people’s mommies didn’t come home right? It’s so stupid.” Her voice broke as she spoke these last words causing her eyes to well up, though she held back her tears.
Jack looked at his friend, sensing some deep hurt but was unwilling to push. “You know, I think… maybe it was to teach us something.”
“Teach us? What could it possibly teach us?” she asked.
“Well, it taught my daddy to appreciate the family he has. It taught you and me to think about this stuff. Maybe if we think about it and we teach other people to think about it, it won’t happen again.”
“Maybe.” She said, looking back out the window on the lawn below. She placed her head on her folded hands.
“Maybe we will just realize one day that we are all the same. We are all just trying to be friends in this world and we need to do it together.”
“I’m glad I have you as my friend.” He said.
She smiled and looked at him. “Me too.” and the two hugged.