Today is not the day for fun and games.
Today conjures up unspeakable images of what happened on September 11, 2001 starting at 8:48 am when the first plane hit the first Twin Tower. Hell on Earth Day had begun.
Nothing in my life shook me like that one. Was the world ending? Would the entire nation get blown up? Was America going to survive the onslaught? How were my three children, then ages 9, 9 and 4, going to cope in a world where madmen were willing to kill themselves to kill as many Americans as they could?
This I thought about. I wrote a book partly in response to 9/11. I always turn to writing when I have questions, or am troubled, or can't figure out what to do or how to think. The book was in part for my children. I wanted them to know that despite the horrors of 9/11 there remained many things about life to be hopeful about and to look forward to. Hoping is critical for people.
As I reflect back on these 12 years of psychological and emotional healing, I realize that one of the most hopeful aspects of their lives and mine have involved practicing, playing, watching, and talking about sports. The quintessential diversion and oasis from memories and implications of 9/11, they have brought joy, triumph, anticipation, laughter, and life lessons. They have been a respite from all things 9/11. They have overcome that catastrophe.
Mostly, they have been fun. Children deserve to have fun. No one should be able to rob them of that. Osama Bin Laden and those hijackers tried and failed.
My children have been able to put aside what they found out about 9/11 and focus on playing basketball, football, lacrosse, baseball and swimming. They have traveled around the state and country to swimming meets and baseball tournaments, enriching their lives and perspectives. They have played in championship games and won them. They have celebrated after such glorious achievements at pizza parties at our house with their teammates and parents. There is nothing more fun than this. Sports have provided the path out of the 9/11 horrors.
I remember my daughter qualifying for a national swimming meet, something she had spent hundreds of hours practicing for. Tears flowed. I remember my other daughter swimming two lengths of butterfly at the age of 11 even though she had never done it before. She dared to try the stroke that hurts so much to endure. She finished. Now she believes in herself and is fiercely determined. I remember my son's eighth grade basketball team coming back from a 20 point half-time deficit to win the game in overtime. At half-time of that game it was unthinkable they could accomplish that.
I remember dozens of other sporting events in which my children played. These games kept them focused on playing games, being with friends, not worrying about the real dangers of this world, not obsessing about 9/11 or thinking it had ruined their lives. It didn't.
Without sports I'm not sure what we have done to cope with 9/11. I imagine they would have delved into some other activities such as the drama club or dancing. These would have secured their childhoods effectively also.
But for my family it has been sports. Sports taught us that despite 9/11 the world overflows with wonderful opportunities and experiences. Laughter still flourishes. This will always be the case.