Patriot Day is a National Holiday to honor the lives lost on September 11, 2001. As parents, we will never forget that day and often talk about where we were and what we were doing when we learned that planes had hit the Twin Towers. The devastation was so far-reaching that many of us have a personal connection to that day. It is a day that shaped our country and pulled us together in our grief.
Children today did not feel the impact of 9/11 personally. While it is a hard topic to talk about with kids, we need to have the conversations. They are likely to learn about it in school, but the discussion needs to continue at home.
How do we impart the significance of 9/11 to our kids? We share the stories— our own stories of how that day impacted us, and the impact it had on survivors, first responders, family members, and loved ones.
September 11 Video Resources for Kids
BrainPOP is a resource that I discovered this past year as we were thrust into virtual learning. It is a great collection of educational videos that makes learning accessible to children. This 5+ minute long video teaches about the significance of 9/11, and related videos cover topics such as airport security, terrorism, war, and mourning. The video starts with a warning, encouraging kids to watch along with their parents.
This video, created on the 10th anniversary, is geared toward older children as it portrays actual footage from the event. It narrates from the perspective of bystanders and family members who were affected by the attack.
September 11: Stories for All Ages
In addition to educational videos, share the stories with your children. Many books are available to help children understand the significance of that day at an age-appropriate level. Reading these stories with our children allows for questions and discussions to occur.
By Mordecai Gerstein
The Twin Towers were completed in the early 1970’s. Read along as a tightrope walker crossed between the two towers of the World Trade Center and celebrate the buildings, long before tragedy struck. By understanding the beauty and value that these buildings brought to the city, it is a great introduction for younger children about September 11.
By Materson Elementary Students
How long did it take you to feel a return to normalcy after the events of September 11th? This is a story that illustrates how the whole country came together as a first grade class in Kennet, Missouri, reacts and reflects on 9/11, the day after it occurred.
By Maira Kalman
September 11th was about feats of heroism and selflessness as much as it was about fear and devastation. This book is about a retired fireboat that was long past being useful; however, despite being slated for the scrap heap, this old boat fought mightily and brought hope.
By Jim O’Connor and Who HQ
This book is part of the What Was? Series of titles. Explore the history of the Twin Towers to understand the significance they had in New York. Learn about their construction and their destruction.
By Don Brown
It is key to share the facts with our children, but in order to make the event more than just a chapter in a history book, the first-hand accounts of people who lived through it are critical to the telling. This book shares the stories of first-responders, of people who witnessed the event, and of survivors of that day. It lifts the events off of the page and lends heart to the tragedy.
By Jewell Parker Rhodes
How do we give our children a sense of the unity we all felt as Americans on the days following September 11? Even those who did not have a personal connection to the tragedy felt the imaginary ties that looped around us all. This book is a fictional account of a girl named Deja who lives near New York City yet is unaware of the events of the attack. Readers follow Deja as she learns the history of the day and how it brought a nation together.
By David Levithan
This book is definitely for older children; however, it is important to impart the emotions of that day to our teens, as well. As our kids grow older, the stories we tell get more involved. This fictional story binds three characters who meet before September 11 together in a way that will help kids feel the impact on a more personal level.
Patriot Day: How to Make a Difference
While September 11 is burned into our memories, for our kids, two decades is a long time to have passed since the tragedy. Despite this, there are still ways we can lend support. After sharing the stories, it may be helpful to illustrate how we can still help, even today.
Talk with your children about how as a nation, we all pulled together. First responders nationwide joined the fight, and people all over the United States donated and helped in ways that they could. There are still charities today that you and your children can contribute to and make a difference.
To make the donations even more meaningful, talk with your kids about ways they can raise money on their own to donate. Whether they save their allowance or do extra chores to earn some cash, putting the work in makes the donation more significant.
Here is a link to some of the charities still helping, even after all of this time.
The most important thing for us to absorb as parents is the value of not shying away from hard discussions but being mindful of keeping them age-appropriate for our children. It is helpful to read these books and watch the videos ourselves before showing them to our kids to prepare for the questions that may come.
At a time when our nation feels so divided, remembering the unity that sprung from tragedy helps us, as parents, reinforce the concept that we are one nation despite our differences. Let’s encourage our children to see the value in working together, no matter how we differ, to build a stronger America. Let us also remember that our actions speak louder than our words.