We need Mister Rogers' video messages after 9/11 now more than ever

While Rogers had addressed national tragedies before on his platform, he struggled during the aftermath of September 11.
/ Source: TODAY

Even though Mister Rogers was off the air when the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks happened in the United States, producers for his show knew his country needed him.

But he was reluctant.

Yes, he had lent his voice to help Americans cope with national tragedies in years prior, but according to Biography.com, 9/11 especially hurt him. Not only was he a partial resident of both New York and Pennsylvania where attacks had taken place, the attacks contradicted his messages of neighborliness and kindness he had spent so many decades trying to convey to his audience.

Fred Rogers poses on the Pittsburgh set of his television show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, in this 1996 publicity photo. Rogers' new book, Dear Mister Rogers: Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?, is a treasury of letters from young viewers, and Rogers' responses.AP

The 2018 documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" profiles this trying time in the television personality's life. Margy Whitmer, a producer of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," relayed a conversation Rogers had during the aftermath of the attacks, where he questioned, "I just don't know what good these (video promos) are gonna do."

Despite his trepidation, he came out of retirement to film a series of four video clips to address the attacks. These short video messages aired on PBS to mark the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11, according to Snopes.

In one of the clips, Rogers explains how adults can best communicate with their children about traumatic events happening in the news.

"Some parents wonder how to handle world news with their young children," he began. "Well, we at Family Communications have discovered that when children bring up something frightening, it's helpful right away to ask them what they know about it."

Rogers explained that many times, children have a skewed perception of what is going on, making it even more important to talk to them about these difficult issues.

"We often find that their fantasies are very different from the actual truth," he explained. "What children probably need to hear most from us adults is that they can talk with us about anything and that we will do all we can to keep them safe in any scary time."

He told the viewer in another clip, "I'm just so proud of all of you who have grown up with us."

"I know how tough it is some days to look with hope and confidence on the months and years ahead, but I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger... I like you just the way you are."

Meant for adults, Rogers still used these poignant video messages to address how children were coping during these trying times.

"And what's more, I'm so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you'll do everything you can to keep them safe and to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods."

In 2020, 19 years after 9/11 and in the midst of a global pandemic, Mister Rogers and his stirring messages of hope and resilience are needed now more than ever.