Applause down the road signaled the first entries in the brief parade. Not your average Fourth of July parade, this procession consisted of local police cars, fire trucks, and a couple of flatbeds: one carrying rubble from the World Trade Center, the other a New York City fire truck damaged in the attack. The caravan had trekked through eighteen states.
As the fire trucks rolled by, the crowd applauded and cheered, but there was a solemn character to the appreciation. I held Corey in my arms for a better view and he kept saying, “Look, Daddy, another fire truck.” Momentum built with each passing fire vehicle and police car—everyone knew what was coming.
When the flatbeds finally neared, cameras clicked left and right. The first carried two twisted, rusted columns from one of the twin towers—not much to look at from an aesthetic sense, but staggering once the mind considered their history. The crowd hushed as the wreckage rolled by and applause was measured. Few people moved. I got a lump in my throat and was glad I wore sunglasses. The second truck carried a disabled fire truck damaged at Ground Zero. At this my three-year-old Corey, oblivious to the ideologies and events of the adult world, exclaimed: “Daddy, that fire truck is broken!” The lump in my throat grew larger, and I nearly lost all composure.
My son’s senses were right: he saw a badly broken fire truck. But how—and when—would I complete the picture for him? As he grows how will I help him understand good and evil and why they get mixed up for some people. Suddenly my parental responsibility to educate my child overwhelmed me. I realized that God had entrusted to me the charge of guiding the development of this precious little life, my son’s ideas and values. Maybe I’ll start by playing with Corey and his fire truck.