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Even Halloween Costumes Have New Meaning
An Essay by Susan Bayh

audio Listen to Bayh's essay.

Oct. 30, 2001 -- At the costume store, alongside super-heroes and Power Rangers, we found costumes for firemen, policemen and soldiers. Last year these costumes might have been passed over. This year they were in high demand.

In fact, we had to visit three stores before finding my son's Army Ranger costume. Maybe next year stores will offer costumes for postal workers, senate staffers or health-care professionals.

When we returned home, I watched my 6-year-old try on his soldier costume with trepidation. This month, many mothers sent their sons and daughters in the real outfit to fight for all of us, half a world away.

"Was it really less than two months ago that our country idolized professional athletes and pop music stars? And when was the last time a teen-ager wore the mask of a politician out of respect rather than ridicule?"

Susan Bayh

Our leaders have cautioned us that the war on terrorism will last more than one generation. As his mother, I hope that we will prevail before it becomes necessary for my 6-year-old to join the fight.

My son's costume selection reminded me of how much has changed in the last two months -- but not all of those changes have been bad. Was it really less than two months ago that our country idolized professional athletes and pop music stars? And when was the last time a teen-ager wore the mask of a politician out of respect rather than ridicule?

If there is a slight sliver lining in the events since Sept. 11, it is that words like hero, bravery, courage and patriotic duty have new meaning. The faces of our heroes are now those of Americans that serve the public every day.

When I was a girl in the early '60s, we were teachers, nurses, firemen and policemen on Halloween. Our costumes reflected our future aspirations. Perhaps our children's selections this year represent a turning point for their futures as well, away from professional wrestlers and Barbie dolls to careers that serve the public.

This Halloween we're all praying for an end to these turbulent times, but I can't help hoping that we retain this shift in our values.

Susan Bayh is a lawyer who lives in Washington, D.C. and Indianapolis, Ind.