How Do You Deal With A Child’s Questions About Terrorism?

This year I was determined to have a meaningful Thanksgiving. After all of the shocks we have faced this year with the economy, Wall street, mounting financial issues…not to mention a slew of family health and business problems, it was time to finally sit down and celebrate the change that Obama has promised.

And then…in the very wake of the Thanksgiving hour came an SMS message from a friend alerting us about the terror attacks in Mumbai: “Right this very minute, bombs are going off in every corner of our city. Please call home and ensure that your loved ones are safe.”

All of Wednesday, I was glued to the TV and checked lists of the deceased on the hour every hour…luckily no one had been harmed. But on Thursday, the day that we sat down to by thankful for what we have…I received word that a good friend and her husband had been shot at a restaurant in Mumbai’s Oberoi hotel orphaning three young children. It was the restaurant that our family frequents for Sunday brunch, the restaurant in which we celebrated my daughter’s birthday just three months ago.

My daughter who overheard everything could not help but ask how it is possible that a child’s parents can go out for dinner as they do every week perhaps, yet one day never come back. That night she wanted to sleep in our bed, in between her father and her mother petrified that somehow that they too might be taken away from her for some unjust reason.

Over the course of the holiday, we continued to receive news of friends who had dodged bullets as they fled to safety and the less fortunate ones who did not make it. Mumbai is a city where everyone knows everyone. For all the victims that we knew directly, we were separated by barely one degree from those that we did not. My children recognized many of the victims and survivors.

As we watched NDTV my son overheard a reporter speak of the orphaned child of a Rabbi and his wife who was saved by his nanny. It was the child’s second birthday the day after. My son who like any child anticipates his next birthday every day of the year, asked me, “Why did God kill his parents on his birthday?

What kind of answer can a parent create or concoct for questions like these? How to deal with a child’s natural curiosity, fear and intense emotion?

This morning I was told a story about a family of four killed in one of the hotels: The terrorists first killed the father and watched the mother go beserk. They then killed the mother as the two teenage kids stood by. They set fire to a table cloth ordering the kids to place it over their parents…”you need to cremate them,” said one of the terrorists. When the tablecloth somehow brushed the arm of one terrorist, he shot one of the kids. Then…having let the other kid linger over his dead parents and sibling for some time, the terrorist finally shot him too.

Can we seek solace in knowing that the entire family was killed and so none will be left to grieve? What justice is there in this world?

Whether terrorism is economically driven or whether it occurs due to religious strife, we can no longer rely on others to protect us. What can we do as individuals to make the world we live in a safer place for our children?

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