What to say?

Every morning, Camille pulls back the curtain over the dining room window to give us a report on the status of the American flag at the school next door. If it’s up on the flagpole, she’ll exclaim, “The flag is up! I see the flag!”

On weekends when the flag’s not flying, she’ll moan, “The flag’s not there! Mama, why is the flag not there?”

Today when she pulled back the curtain, she told me in a worried voice, “The flag’s not up!”

For just a second I was confused because today is a school day after all. But then I knew what she was seeing before I even looked for myself. A flag at half-mast.

I can imagine her confusion, but I didn’t know how to help her understand. “They’re not going to put it all the way up today,” I said matter-of-factly, hoping we could close the discussion.

“But why?” she asked, of course.

I searched for an adequate answer for a moment, then settled on the old stand-by of “They’re just not.”

I know one day I’ll need to tell her about what happened on September 11th. I’ll want to tell her. But at the same time, I look at her and see so much innocence, and there is a big part of me that wants to shield her from knowledge of all the sadness and evil in the world. But September 11th also held many moments of courage, selflessness, patriotism and sacrifice, and I hope one day to help her understand those things as well. Especially those things.

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