How do you explain Sep 11 to young kids?

Promos for shows from different networks marking the 10 year anniversary of the Sep-11 attacks have started appearing on TV recently. This has led to my kids, who are under ten, asking questions.

What happened on Sep 11? Well, a bunch of bad guys hijacked some planes and crashed them into some buildings in America to try and kill as many people as they could.

This was ten years ago? Where were you? Yep, it was 10 years ago, a bit before you were born. Me and mum were getting ready to go to bed while it was actually happening. See, while it was early morning in the Eastern US, it was close to bedtime here. I remember seeing a news ticker on the bottom of the TV screen about a plane crash, but we shut the TV off to get an early night. This was when me and mum both worked at the same place. We didn’t see any of it until we woke up the next day. The clock radio went off at the appointed time, and they were talking about a plane crash. “Must have been the news from last night”, we thought. “Let’s turn on the news after breakfast before we go to work”. When we turned on the TV, it seemed every channel was carrying the same story. Two planes had crashed into the tallest buildings in New York called the World Trade Centre, and another into the Pentagon. And the World Trade Centre buildings had actually fallen down! Later we learned there was a fourth plane crash too.

Why did they try and kill those people? (OK, here we go…) You’ll soon start hearing a lot of people talking about this, and about related events that have happened in the 10 years following Sep 11. The short truth of the matter is that there are two reasons.

  1. They wanted American soldiers out of their Holy Lands, particularly military bases near Mecca and Medina which are Holy Cities.
  2. They wanted the American government to stop giving military support to Israel.
But why didn’t they just ask? I’m sure they did ask, and a number of times.They decided they only way that the Americans would listen was to do something like this; very spectacular and large.

When you say “they”, you mean Muslims?
 Well, yes. The guys who organised it and the guys who did it were all from a religion called Islam. People who follow Islam are called Muslims.

So, do Muslims try and kill people all the time?
No, not at all. Most of the world’s billion or so Muslims are regular people like you and me trying to live the best life they can. But some decided to do something really evil and kill a bunch of people. They aren’t the Muslim leaders, and they don’t represent the rest of the Muslims.

Why did they choose those buildings?
 The name of the guy who organised the attacks was Osama bin Laden. Osama had tried to destroy the World Trade Centre before, by getting a guy to drive a truck loaded with explosives into the basement underneath one of the buildings. The hope was that the bomb would go off, and push one tower into the other and bring them both down. That didn’t work, but he really wanted to bring those buildings down because they were a symbol of American economic power. Two towers took two planes.  A third plane was crashed into the Pentagon, which is a military base and symbol of American military power. Remember the fourth plane I mentioned? It was likely that this was supposed to crash into the White House which is where the President lives, and is a symbol of American politics and America itself. The fourth plane didn’t make it because the passengers fought back against the bad guys and the plane crashed into an empty field. They saved a lot of lives.

Then what happened?
Well over the last ten years America has started wars with Afghanistan and Iraq as well as a bunch of other countries. Don’t ask me to explain all that right now. Maybe another time. I spent a few months in America the next year, just before you were born and because they used planes to crash into buildings and kill people it meant more security and longer lines waiting to get onto flights. My dad took a flight on Sep 11 2002 and was the only passenger on the plane! In May, they guy who organised the attacks was tracked down and killed in a town in Pakistan.

So it’s all over, right? They can stop the wars?
Oh, I wish you were world leaders.

How have you explained Sep 11 to your young families? Leave a comment!