Am driving on a road-trip with my kids in the backseat watching “Cars” on DVD. After an interesting discourse on Route 66 and the impact of the interstate highway system on small towns such as the imaginary Radiator Falls, I threw out the fact that the Porsche in the movie, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, was a 911. What I did not expect was an uncomfortable pause in our conversation and the awkward follow up question of when was the Porsche 911 made.
Puzzled by both the question and tone, I noted Porsche had been producing 911’s for years but asked the reason for the question. As soon as my daughter began her answer, I realized the source of the concern and confusion: ” why would anyone name a car after 911″.
My daughter will be 13 in September and my son 10 in July. In September 2001 she was almost 5 and my son 2. Both knew “911” to mean S eptember 11, 2001 before “9-1-1” and in their lives it has no other meaning.
I irony is that, at least until the last year or so, while this generation has been the beneficiary of good economic times, they have also lived under the umbrella of post-911 terrorist fears and precautions as well as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The world in fact, in my daughter’s 12 years and even my son’s 9, is more dangerous, less stable and now, oh by the way, poorer.
This said, their childhoods’ have been relatively normal and happy and probably not that much different (in the big picture) than had they been born 10 or 20 years earlier.
So, what the fuck does all this mean? Is childhood by its very nature immune? (That’s probably why they call it “childhood”.) Or, does the external context of childhood reveal itself at a later date. If so, I can’t wait for the first childhood genre movies ( “The Twitter Years” anyone?) of writers who are growing up now (Really though, am in no hurry).
All I know at this point is that like in all of us, “911” amongst our children evokes a feeling of evil, of sadness and reverence. They may have not seen the photos or videos but they know. Whether its the name of a car or an answer to a math problem, this combination of numbers will always be a part of their lives. Its our job, though, to help them cope, understand, and recognize both the good as well as the evil.