Today, on September 11th, I plan to light a candle as I always do in honor of those who died on that dark day. But this year, I’m also thinking about a memory that brought me hope in the days immediately after the terrorist attacks.
It happened on 9/13, when I picked up my son, then 3, from his preschool class, where the kids had spent part of the afternoon making objects of their choice on paper plates with sugar cubes and glue. I enveloped my son in a hug and fought back tears when I saw his creation: sparkling twin towers stretching as high as he could stack the cubes.
“It’s for you, Mommy,” he told me. “I put them back together for you.”
Although we’d kept my son and his little sister away from the television as much as we could, they’d of course seen snippets of the horrific footage showing the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, and they’d also heard me and my husband talking. There was no avoiding it. I’d explained to them that some very bad people had done a terrible thing, not wanting them to know the complete horror.
But even at 3, my son seemed to grasp the seriousness of what had happened. It was the first of many occasions when he would express his feelings through art. We kept those sugar cube towers on our fireplace mantel for weeks, unable to bear throwing them away. By the time I finally put them in a Ziploc bag and stored them in the freezer, my son had moved on to creating bridges and towers with Lego Duplo bricks, piling them high from the hardwood floor in his bedroom until they’d either toppled over or he’d knocked them down, only to rebuild again.
Now 19, my son doesn’t remember building his twin towers, and it never occurred to me to take a photo of him with them. It was a moment that was best left undocumented, to be quietly appreciated for what it meant. But just like the mythical phoenix rose from the ashes, the memory of those sugar cubes will always remind me that even in times of darkness — especially in times of darkness — love, hope and beauty will rise with the human spirit once again.