'I Want Him To Feel The World Is Still A Good Place'


Sept. 8, 2011

Sunanda Narayanan is a business manager at WGBH. Her son was born on Sept. 10, 2001. Here, she reflects on raising a child in the aftermath of the attacks.

On Sept. 11, I had a newborn son, he arrived the evening of September 10. And I was very happy about his arrival, but also very apprehensive of the world we brought him into.

Sunanda poses with her firstborn son in Greece in May 2011.

I shielded this from him for quite a while. I think the first inkling he had of it came from school almost, when he started grade school four years ago, and he came home asking me about this. And I gave him a very superficial scheme of how things had happened.

He said, “Someone really wanted to kill so many people?” and, “Someone really wanted to kill innocent people who were working and didn’t know this was going to happen to them, and who were parts of families?” And I said, "Yes, I mean, it was really evil, the way it happened."

But the more shocking thing was, recently, when the whole Osama’s capture event happened, it was amazing to see his reaction, because now he’s that much older. But I think he’s also a very gentle child; he couldn’t share in that sense of, you know, this is how justice is repaid.

H'e said, “Why did they do this to him? And are you telling me that we need to be happy that somebody actually died? Is that how we pay back?”

And, you know, it was very hard for him to make sense of the whole situation given the other values we’ve tried to inculcate in him; that we don’t harm people, we don’t feel happy when someone dies. And it was really, really hard for him to understand or appreciate those sentiments.

And that was… I feel like I don’t ever want him to lose that. I want him to feel that the world is still a good place, where we don't rejoice when someone dies, no matter what they’ve done. At some level, it’s justice done, but it’s not something to really rejoice about.

I think last year, last year in August I went to India with my two kids for a family wedding, and we were flying back via Heathrow and there was a heightened security alert for whatever reason. My oldest son's name got pulled by the computer for a random security check. As luck would have it, he was coming back with a fever, and he was really sick, and he was tired.

And the security officer was trying to pat him down, and he said, “Do you mind if I take him by himself to another room to check him out?” And that I’d have to go with him.

And while they were patting him down, and all of that, his eyes were tearing, because I had just given him his Tylenol for a fever. And the security officer looked at me and said, “Is he scared? I mean, why is he crying?” And I said, no, he’s really, really miserable, because he’s unwell. And of course he’s scared, I mean, he’s a kid.

I could see how with the changes that had happened in the world, there was just no going back. And that was really sad, I think.

I really felt sad.

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