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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. _ The tower is blue and green, yellow and red. The plane is in the hand of a 3-year-old. It might have been November or December. Several weeks, at least, after 9/11.
"Look mommy. Look daddy. I CRASH my tower!" the child says as pieces of wood fly harmlessly across the living room and the boy's parents look wide-eyed at each other.
"I started crying," says Kathy Lynch.
"We just looked at each other, you know? Kind of stunned," says her husband, Mark.
Sept. 11 was another generation's Pearl Harbor. But these kids watched it live. They saw it in their homes and for some, memories are still vivid a year later. And for their parents, those kinds of reminders come with a dreaded sharpness.
"We talked with Billy after the tower thing with his blocks," says Mark, a Publix manager who lives in Deerfield Beach, Fla. "We asked him what he remembered, and he said `Mommy crying.' "
The Lynches' 8-year-old son, Kyle, was in school on the day of the terrorist attacks. He has seen photographs but hasn't been allowed to watch the video of the planes hitting the World Trade Center.
But Billy was with his parents that morning.
The Lynches were shopping for a bin for their sons' toys the morning of 9/11 when someone came into the store and said planes had hit the towers in New York. Mark went to the car and tuned in the radio, but little was being reported.
They went directly home and turned on the television in their den.
"We watched for about an hour, and it was just devastating," says Kathy. "When the second tower went down, I saw the line on the screen that said `Live' and I said, `What do they mean live? This is a tape, right?' "
When the smoke cleared and they realized both towers were gone, the Lynches went to their knees and prayed.
"My brother works in Manhattan, and my stomach just dropped when they kept describing the devastation in the financial district. He worked at American Express, and when I finally got through to my father, he said he'd gotten a call from my brother. He'd been stopped on the subway several stops away and he was walking back home to Brooklyn."
A strongly religious family, the Lynches finally snapped off the television and went to their neighborhood church to pray.
In the past year, the Lynches admit they've become "news junkies," watching daily broadcasts and checking news sources online. Mark, 41, still takes second looks at strange vendors in his store who aren't wearing identification and will openly question them. Kathy, 35, still drives past a neighbor's memorial to the New York firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero every time she goes to the post office.
They say that a year later, they feel safer "but we'll never look up at an airplane the same way again," Mark says.
On this first-year anniversary, they will have both of their sons …