Remembering 9/11 with Kids

Eleven years ago tragedy struck New York City. Many Long Islanders were affected by the shocking attacks at the World Trade Center. Many years later, families find themselves explaining the 9/11 attacks to their children.  Long Island Mamas asked local families about their experiences, and we’ve also listed memorials on Long Island to visit for remembering 9/11 with kids.

Several Long Island Mamas readers shared how they were affected by the tragedy.  We thank them for sharing their emotional stories.

From Jennifer Bomgardner Roth:
“I sat down at my desk on 9/11/01 to begin my day at work. I checked the news while sipping my tea and read ‘breaking news’ that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I clicked away thinking ‘a Cessna went off course and hit one of the towers.’ I remember thinking ‘Dad is at work, but he is in a building across from the World Trade Center.” I was thankful he would be fine as it was not his building.

We all know how the events of that day unfolded. The phones were out, there was no way to contact my father. Fear, sadness and emotions I can’t even comprehend occupied my every thought and every movement. Where is he? Is he alive? Does he need help? I was frozen in time and completely helpless. I was driven to my mother’s house so we could be together during this tragedy, praying every second to hear from my father. We were lost. By 1:30 PM there was a brief and garbled call from Dad, he was trapped in a building. People were not allowed to leave due to the airborne dust, rubble and debris. There was no ventilation, the air was stifling, hot, and very uncomfortable to breathe. We were cautiously overjoyed that he did not perish like most of those around him.

My Dad finally made it home the next day, it was the first time he walked across Brooklyn Bridge. We were thankful for our fortune, but our hearts were shattered by the events of that day. It changed our lives forever. My children are still too young to know about these events. However, I feel it is important for them to learn about this tragedy which changed our family’s life forever. They have been to a 9/11 memorial at our local fire department. They understand people died and it is important to always remember and respect those we have lost.”

From Tara Athenas:
“I was sitting in my 11th grade psychology class when I found out that the planes had hit the twin towers. My first thought was ‘Oh my God, my dad works in the city. I hope he wasn’t nearby.’ As soon as class was over I ran down to call my mom. That was when she told me that she spoke to my dad and he was heading down to the towers. I guess it was just instinct of being a firefighter for most of his life that made him go straight there. I had never been so scared in my life when shortly after that I found out that the towers collapsed.

We couldn’t get in touch with him after that for quite a few hours, but then finally he walked in the door later that evening. I was not home at the time but I remember my mom telling me I was better off not having to see what he looked like when he came home. He was covered in dust from head to toe and his eyes were blood red from all the debris. He took a shower and headed right back to the firehouse so that he could go back in to help. To this day, I couldn’t tell you what happened to my father when he went back to Ground Zero. It’s not something he speaks about very often. I could only begin to imagine all of the horrible things he saw when he was there.  When I have kids of my own it would be essential for me to teach them about 9/11 and what their grandfather did to help.”

From Wendy Shepard-Kalan:
“My husband helped as a Police Sargent. He planned the police department part of the funerals for all of Suffolk County. It went on for over a year. He was devastated by the loss the families suffered through. He lost his best childhood friend who was in the fire department that day. My husband and his friend went through the training together to become firemen. My husband was a fireman along with his friend for 10 years before becoming a policeman.

When the towers were attacked, I watched the horrors on TV. All I could think about was the people inside. I had been in those towers many times — the shopping area under the towers and the offices. I tried to reach my husband and couldn’t. He was already at a conference on terrorism that day, upstate. He called me to tell me to stay in the house with our son, and he will call when he can. He raced over bridges, not knowing if they were next, drove to Long Island to pick his officers up and report for duty. I was terrified that I wouldn’t see him again.

When he finally returned home, I just cried and held him. I was so thankful to see him. We didn’t know if more attacks were coming or what would happen. I was thankful our son was too young to grasp the horror and tragedy. Then, watching my husband come home heartsick from over 100 funerals in a year…that was very hard. I would hear each family story and their loss. There were no words to describe that kind of pain, just tears. When my husband is catching armed robbers, we know that’s what it is. On 9/11 it was unknown where the next attack would be. Our police had to go in blinded by shock, pain, anger and not knowing what to expect.

As for my son, I just held him close to me, praying his daddy would be okay. One thing about having a spouse in police work, especially now that my husband is Homeland Security for Suffolk County, I know I will be alone with our son in emergencies…I also know my husband has trained his entire life for those times. I have to trust his knowledge and training. He chose his career to serve and protect. As his wife, I have to be strong and capable. As the mother of our son, I have to act positive no matter what. If there’s tears, I make sure I’m alone first. That’s the life of a police officers wife.”

Memorials to Visit with the Kids
A great way to remember 9/11 with the children is to visit one of the many 9/11 memorials located in Long Island.

Heckscher Park
Where: 2 Prime Avenue, Huntington, NY

Nassau County’s 9/11 Memorial
Where: Eisenhower Park, 899 Hempstead Turnpike, East Meadow, NY

9/11 Memorial
Where: Diamond in the Pines Park, near Avalon Pines at Pine Road and Route 83, Coram, NY

Gardens of Remembrance
Where: 100 Veterans Memorial Hwy, Hauppauge, NY

9/11 Memorial
Where: Tobay Beach, Ocean Parkway east of Jones Beach, off Wantagh Parkway, Massepequa, NY

Responders’ Memorial
Where: Gibbs Pond Road and Smithtown Boulevard, Nesconsett, NY

Alumni Memorial Grove
Where: West Campus, Nicolls Road Main Entrance, Stony Brook, NY

Here is a picture of how the towers look today. This just proves how strong we are and that we can pull through anything, together.


By Tara Arichabala



Photo Credits
World Trade Center:
Freedom Tower: Jay Dier
Heckscher Park 9/11 Memorial: Jensan Photography via Maria Adcock

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