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Father-Son Relationships

While watching Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I was struck by how independent Oskar is.  He travels throughout New York City – not just within Manhattan but to other boroughs – with nothing but a backpack and his ideas.  I just couldn’t get past the idea that someone so young, not to mention with so many phobias and anxieties, could meander through the five boroughs all by himself.  In fact, 9/11 only seemed to take an even bigger toll on Oskar’s nerves.  He mentions being afraid of tall buildings, planes, people running, babies screaming, and basically anything that can be connected to the worst day of his life.  In spite of all of this, he continues to go on his reconnaissance mission: For his dad.

The more I thought about this little boy doing something he was afraid of so he could recapture part of the father he lost, the more I thought about Sarah’s presentation last week in which she had briefly discussed how 9/11 affected the relationship between fathers and sons.  This reminded me of a news story I had read this past anniversary of 9/11.  August Larsen was born two days after his father, a firefighter, died  inside the World Trade Center.  Just ten years old, he had never met his father but was fascinated by him.  His mother mentioned that every time August saw a fire truck, he would start talking about what his father had done, and frequently looked at the cabinet she kept full of her husband’s memorabilia.  August even made a crayon rubbing of his father’s name on the memorial.

Unlike Oskar, August had never met his dad, but the ties and the strong connection were still there.  Unlike Oskar, August doesn’t have phobias or anxiety, but he still fixates on things that remind him of his father, like fire trucks or fire fighter memorabilia. While these are just two examples of sons whose relationships with their fathers were changed or damaged, I do agree that 9/11 altered father-son relationships.  Because of so many of these bonds examined and portrayed in post 9/11 media, I think more fathers and sons are looking at their relationships more carefully and realizing that everything can change at the drop of a dime.

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