Maybe there are no reasons why, maybe “just because” is all there is.
Yesterday we observed the 11th anniversary of what is possibly the most dreadful attack on our nation in history.
And still, no one seems to have a legitimate answer for why it happened.
As we take time to remember this week, I’d like to share my Sunday Night column from Sept. 19, 2001.
“He grabs the stuffed red dog from its perch on the top of the couch, the one with the white ribbon around his neck. On the ribbon are red hearts. “Why are there hearts on the bow?” he asks. He skips lightly, carefree to the door, toy dog tucked tightly under his little arm. “How come you let me take him with us?”
With a hop and another he’s down the steps running to Grandma’s car, looking longingly at the empty front passenger seat where he’d really like to sit. “Why do I have to sit in the back?” “How come big people can sit in the front?” “How come your car is blue.” “Why is there a scratch on the door?” “Why do we have to go to the store?” “How come they have food there?” “Why do we need to eat food?” “How come potatoes are so yucky?”
Tucked securely into his carseat he hugs the red dog close to his tiny body. “How come the dog is red?” “Why does he have a ribbon around his neck?”
We drive away down the road. “Why are the birds sitting on the wire?” “How come they don’t fall off?” “Why is the sky blue?” “How come your house is so far from the store?” “How come Grandpa stayed home?” “Why is the road so long?”
The “how comes” and the “whys” never stop, and some require unique responses because this little boy won’t settle for a “just because.” The questions continue until a weary three-year-old’s eyes begin to droop. “How come it takes so long to get to the st……… “
The innocent inquiries have ceased. A little blond head rests against the red dog with the white bow – with red hearts. In peace the little boy naps, lulled to sleep by the motion of the car, by soothing words and Grandma’s patient answers – because, because, because…..always followed by a succession of explanations each followed by another question from the youngster.
On the planes last Tuesday were three-year-olds and at least one four-year-old. Over and over we watched the bottom of the TV screen repeat their names with those of the others fallen in the terrible tragedy. These little ones were probably very much like my grandson – filled with “whys” and “how comes” as they boarded the planes with their parents. They probably asked them of the flight attendants, maybe even the pilots as they passed by on their way to their seats. While waiting for the plane to take off they probably had a few more whys and how comes about the pending trip. Maybe they began to annoy nearby passengers with their incessant questions. Maybe they even asked why and how come of the soon-to-be terrorists posing as ordinary fellow passengers. Like other three- and four-year-olds, they were probably filled with awe and wonder as they asked away about all the new and exciting things that were happening on the morning of September 11, 2001.
In a very short while, however, their inquiries were to cease – forever. There will be no more whys and how comes from these children or the other 5000 plus souls who lost their lives last week. (That was the number used at the time)
Now it’s time for our “whys” and “how comes?”
Why did they have to die? How come people are filled with such hatred? Why those planes? How come no one knew it was coming? Why last Tuesday? How come no one stopped it? Why, why, why? How come, how come, how come?
I can’t imagine what it must have been like holding and comforting little ones while trying to explain why and how come this unthinkable deed was unfolding right before their innocent eyes. And now, we struggle to find the answers to our children’s whys and how comes, especially when we don’t have any reasonable words to come after “because.”
When we stop in the parking lot at the store, Grandma’s little guy opens his eyes and sleepily starts again with the whys and how comes. How will I ever find the answers if some day he asks how come we went to war and why people kill each other? I guess all we can do right now is place our trust in our national and world leaders to find the right answers – clear, direct answers. I, for one, simply won’t accept “because” as a suitable response.”
In the ensuing 11 years, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a suitable response.
I was speaking with a friend Monday, and as we talked about death, especially unexpected death, the kind that came on September 11, 2001, I said this is why we must always let people know how much they mean to us. He agreed.
I suspect we will continue to fail at this. I don’t know how it will ever change.
I do, however, hope to never have to say to another grandchild “because” without having a good reason behind that seven-letter word, when it comes to an attack on our country and its people. Right now, I can’t even think what that might be.
Pause a moment this week, will you, remember 9/11 and make an effort to appreciate all those around you.