I remember Sept. 11, 2001 like it was yesterday.
I was playing outside at recess, running through the soccer field with my friends, when one of my classmates started shouting about the end of the world. At first I thought they were playing a game, but it didn’t take long for me to understand that their fear and panic were real.
Suddenly we were all running around, some of us whispering, some of us shouting, frantic because the world was ending.
In my mind I pictured aliens and giant spaceships, bombs being dropped on our heads, and felt frozen in terror.
In class, my teacher had us work quietly while he sat at his desk with his ear to the radio. Our teacher had never listened to the radio in class before, and he was almost always carefree and smiling. Seeing his furrowed brow and concerned expression made me panic, I felt the weight of the day heavy in my chest, but I also felt confused.
I was a 7th grade girl, and this was my first experience with worldwide turmoil and fear. When I finally started to hear some facts, and learned that there had been a plane crash in New York City, I remember feeling relief. In my young mind, it didn’t sound as bad as I had speculated. The world wasn’t ending, and the event was in a faraway city that I had never even been to. I felt safe in Canada, I felt comforted with the facts, rather than feeling terror in the unknowing and speculation.
I don’t recall our teachers or parents talking to us much about the attack. I’m sure I watched the news with my mom, but it seemed like the event was so far away that I couldn’t identify.
Still, something shifted that day, and I began to feel more fearful when I saw someone that looked like the terrorists on TV, or when I travelled to the United States and had to cross the border. Even in large crowds in big cities, I felt less safe and more vulnerable.
This week, 15 years after the attack that introduced me to terror, there was an attack on a mosque in Quebec City. Six people were killed, and our nation stood frozen in horror, anger, and fear.
The last few months have been full of turmoil worldwide, and since President Trump’s inauguration, the division and hatred has only grown stronger, fueled by the President’s hateful and evil actions.
It doesn’t feel like the same world we lived in fifteen years ago. The attacks feel closer, more personal, and more frequent. I don’t feel it’s safe to travel to the United States, and wouldn’t even consider taking my children there right now.
Today I am able to process the events as an adult, educate myself on world news, and decide how I will personally react. I see a lot of fearful people. It’s not that different from that day 15 years ago, now those children are grown and still running around, screaming, “It’s the end of the world!”
As someone who is generally more anxious and fearful, it’s easy to let my imagination run wild. But I must stand firm in the facts, and keep my heart open to peace and love.
On Monday morning my husband drove to different mosques in the area, hoping to speak to our Muslim neighbours and extend a loving hand. He called an Imam in Cambridge and shared his condolences and support.
As a family we wrote a card to our local mosque, and had our children sign their names, offering our love and condolences as a family. My heart hurts for the children who are fearful for their lives, who are victimized by these acts of terror. It all feels deeply personal now, and much too close to home.
As a mother, I am faced with how and when I will discuss world events with my own children. My oldest daughter is in school now, and I can’t expect her to remain isolated from the world forever. I don’t want her to receive misinformation and feel terror from fellow classmates, but I also don’t want to ignite terror in her.
For me, I feel it’s best to focus on speaking about peace and love to my children, rather than the hate that is being fueled by fear and ignorance. If I educate my children on respecting differences, loving others, and not feeling fearful because someone looks different, I think I’m moving in the right direction.
And I hope and pray that in fifteen years, we’ve moved beyond the hate and division, and have a world that is far more peaceful and accepting. Perhaps the best way to start is by raising our own children to be the peace makers, and not the fear spreaders.
Did you speak to your children about the tragic shooting at the Centre Cultural Islamique de Quebec?