At a 9/11 ceremony, a little girl asks why her father died
It's been a heartbreaking scene at 9/11 ceremonies in recent years: children honoring mothers or fathers they can't remember - yet desperately want to know.
Emma Kathryn Hunt is one of them. On Tuesday, she attended a 9/11 ceremony at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Connecticut -- near where hundreds of horrified onlookers gathered 12 years ago and watched smoke billow from the Twin Towers, some 50 miles away.
Emma, a middle-school student, joined her mother, grandparents and hundreds of others at the state park, the site of a 9/11 memorial that includes 154 stone plaques on the manicured grounds. Each bears the name of a 9/11 victim who had ties to Connecticut. One is Emma's father: William Christopher Hunt. Emma was 15 months old when her dad died with nearly 3,000 others at the World Trade Center. A 32-year-old vice president of Eurobrokers, he had worked on 84th floor of the South Tower.
"What do I remember about my dad? Nothing. Absolutely nothing," Emma told a reporter covering the event. Even so, Emma said that when goes to bed at night, she gazes at a photo of her dad and herself taken on her first birthday. "It's on my bedside table. It's the last thing I look at night. And I tell him, 'Good night, daddy. I love you. I love you always.'"
She explained, "Everything I know about my dad I know because someone in my family tells me things about him. Mostly, it's my grandma. She tells me stories about him when he was a kid. Or how I'm like him. But I don't really know, because I can't remember him."
Emma remained composed during the first part of Tuesday's ceremony, according to Marian Gail Brown's article in the Westport News. Emma, Brown wrote, "tucked her bright orange-red hair away from her freckled face" as she listened to each speaker: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman; and a local minister and rabbi. But "then came the reading of the names of the 161 victims of 9/11 with Connecticut connections in alphabetical order. 'Laurence Abel'... 'Allen Patrick Boyle'...'Sandra Campbell'...'Judith Florence Hofmiller'...Emma grabbed her mother by the knee and squeezed. Two more names before the 71st name. Emma leaned into her mom. Her shoulders shook. 'William Christopher Hunt.' Her body convulsed. And the tears poured out. Her mom rubbed her back and pulled her adolescent half-girl, half-woman body toward her, whispering to Emma."
As heartbreaking as that moment was, it wasn't as heartbreaking as other things that Emma revealed; specifically, that her teachers don't talk much about 9/11. Emma, however, said she wishes they did discuss the terror attack -- even though she worries about what might be said about why her father died.
It's a troubling revelation. Does she perhaps worry she might be taught the version of 9/11 told by the anti-American left; by people like Ward Churchill, the former ethnic studies professor who infamously called people like her father "little Eichmanns"? That characterization delighted the left, whose members believed that America got what it deserved on 9/11 because of the evils it had visited on foreign lands.
Emma is perhaps too young to learn about the nuances of why they hate us; yet her question goes to the heart of the matter: "I'd like someone to really, really explain why this happened."
Why hasn't anybody told her?
Connecticut's 9/11 ceremony was indeed sad -- though not in the way that those who didn't talk to Emma might have thought.