Lost Innocence: The Day I Had to Tell My Children about 9/11


1st Lt. Damon Leehan, Audrey Leehan, Emma 4, Ethan 15 months.

Today was the day. I had dreaded this day since my children were born. I had sheltered them from the photos, we didn’t talk about it in front of them, and I hadn’t shed a tear about 9/11 in many years because we basically ignored it in my house the way people do with terrible truths around little ones. But my oldest daughter is in second grade now and I’m sure other 7 year olds are learning about Patriot Day in school. So today, our school day at home is explaining 9/11 to my children. What a task. The Discovery Channel, thankfully, has a special running with footage and family members remembering the lost.

We started watching the story of Flight 93. Halfway through, tears were streaming down my face. Today is the day I introduced my children to pure evil and terror. How I wish this day had never happened, for those families and for mine. At least I can now explain why their uncle, 1st Lt. Damon Leehan, died and why he was at war. Now they can connect the pictures of the buildings falling to why their cousins lost their daddy. Today is also his birthday. Today, this family remembers Damon, a man born on a day that brought his family so much joy, a day that would live in infamy, and a day that would send him to war from which he would not return.

President Barack Obama tried to turn September 11 into a “day of national service” where you’re supposed to go paint public buildings or something. But most people understand today is a day of national mourning. Mourning for the lost lives, the missing fathers and mothers, the firefighters and first responders who never came down those stairs, and the servicemen and women who went off to war. Today is a day to honor the service of the people who died and to grieve whatever loss you have experienced from the aftermath of that terrible day.

For me, I’m mourning the loss of our hero and the innocence of my children who have now seen images they will never be able to forget.