Mallika Chopra: Mommy, Why Did 9/11 Happen?

The Mindful Mom Series with Mallika Chopra

My 7-year-old daughter has asked me to repeat the same story 5 times this past week. She wants to know how I felt when I thought my brother (her uncle) was on one of the planes that crashed on 9/11.

She wants to know how the planes flew into the buildings in NYC. Did we see it happen? How many people died?

Why did they do it? Who are they? Are Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein the same people? Are they, “they”? She wants to know who Hitler is, because she knows he is a bad person too.

Somehow “terrorism” became a word she wants to understand. I’m not sure if anything in particular triggered it this week or that suddenly stories, impressions, questions are coming together.

Life experiences from the last few years have created a puzzle of emotions, all needing to come together in one cohesive story. Like when she realized in Kindergarten that she could only go to the school she is at because of Martin Luther King – that she looks different from her classmates. Or how vulnerable and helpless she felt in the playground when two friends pulled her in different directions. Or the incredible beauty of hearing the Muslim prayers at dusk in Istanbul.

She is trying to grasp what it means to be scared, vulnerable, judged, hurt, killed. She is trying to understand why she hears people feel nervous about Muslims or black kids in hoods.

I wrote a book, 100 Questions from My Child, years ago when my elder daughter (then 3, now 10) asked me, “Mommy, what’s a bomb?” Seven years later, the questions remain the same, but each answer brings up more and more questions. And I am finding It harder and harder to answer them.

Why would anyone want to hurt – or even kill – other people in the way they did on 9/11? We go back to her feeling of helplessness and vulnerability on the playground when her friends were pulling her and she felt she couldn’t do anything about it. Is this the best way to explain it to her?

She wants to know if we went to war because of 9/11. Yes, I explain. Or yes, I guess… because we went into Iraq, even though Osama Bin Laden planned the attacks and was in Afghanistan. She asks, “But mommy, shouldn’t you know who did the bad things before you punish them?” Her innate wisdom and humanity astounds me.

I am reminded that being a parent is about engaging in the conversations, in the discovery with our children, and guiding them with values. It’s about being patient, admitting we don’t have all the answers, and figuring out together how we navigate this sometimes, very confusing world.

photo by: DVIDSHUB


  1. tough questions!
    I remember one of our family friends moved to India after living in New York for 30 years. A riot took place in their city & people were burning cars, trucks, etc. Their young kids (8 & 12) would ask them questions such as why are people burning the cars instead of repairing them?? The questions sounded funny & innocent….but on a deeper thought, they asked a very important questions: Why do we simply try to burn the problems instead of repairing them!?

  2. Question is is Osama Bin Laden the real mastermind about this or an American seated at the white house?

  3. Poem that I wrote for my kids and grandkids.
    Love your blog.


    The past is history.
    The future a mystery.
    This moment a gift.
    A present from the Universe.
    Enjoy your PRESENT MOMENT.
    For the PRESENT MOMENT is HEAVEN on Earth
    And everyone you meet an angel
    Who don’t know they are.
    HELL is thinking
    Worry Stress
    Depression Regret
    These belong to HELL.
    Want to leave HELL
    BE in HEAVEN
    Ride the 5 senses
    BE in the MOMENT
    If you can see it
    If you can smell it
    If you can hear it
    If you can taste it
    If you can touch it
    It is real
    It is HEAVEN on Earth
    Welcome to HEAVEN on Earth
    Welcome to NOW
    The secret to true HAPPINESS
    Come fully into the moment and
    DECIDE to be HAPPY
    This can never be taken from you

    Love, Papa Beano

  4. Our history teaches us about the realities of our past wars, all the hate and all of the killing produced from these wars. History has carved out an impression of these negative behavior patterns for us through its past actions. We do hold the responsibility to protect our area but I suggest we do it from position of love and work on unraveling the tape that bounds us to our history of hate, war and killing. When we unbound ourselves from this tight emotional grip we can make room for a new era for love, peace, harmony and respect for all mankind on this tiny spec of infinitive planet we reside on.

    If your children are behaving hatefully, do you teach them discipline from a perspective of love or hate?

  5. this is powerful mallika – thanks for being so real about it… we live in a complex world in which bad things sometimes happen to good people and in which people who are confused or have been hurt sometimes do bad things.

    encouraging parents to address these facts of life without resorting to either magical thinking or demonization is a brave example to set.

  6. Explain to your kids that for 100 years of so the United States bullied and tormented the people of West Asia (for example toppling the democratically elected government of Iran and installing a dictator (in 1953) using US tax dollars to fund a secret police that terrorised the people of Iran for years. This policy was to fuel our US addiction to oil.
    Tyrants are propped up in Saudi Arabia and so many oil-producing countries, simply because they 'support' us, the US, by providing oil and selling oil to the rest of the world exclusively in US dollars. If all the Arab countries sold oil in any other currency the United States would be immediately bankrupt. (The only reason India and China hold trillions of dollars is to buy oil. IMAGINE if they dumped their dollar holdings!)
    Finally the worm turned . . .