Compiles Children’s Reactions to 9/11
thought I had done with weeping for September 11.
Then I received a review copy of this book, and the tears flowed
so fast, and so furiously, that I could barely get through it.
Even though as a reporter I had already done some stories about
schoolchildren’s response to the tragic events of last September,
including collecting their art work and poetry, I had been working
in a suburb where the reactions, though pained and often profound,
were shaped by the physical distance from lower Manhattan. The
communities I profiled were scarcely untouched (many of the children,
in fact, had lost parents and loved ones, as had some of the teachers
and staff), but the scale of devastation was undeniably different.
Those of us in the northern suburbs experienced the same shock,
horror and grief as our city counterparts. I doubt I will ever
forget the terror and confusion of not only that bitterly beautiful
Tuesday, but the uncertainty and sadness of the days and weeks
Yet reading these students’ work, many of whom attended school
near Battery Park, is almost too much to bear. Their simple descriptions
of seeing buildings wreathed in smoke, of racing through dust-covered
streets with debris falling all around them, of missing a beloved
family member, their night terrors and nightmares, conjure up
those days more compellingly than almost anything written by adults.
Combine those written pieces with the poignant imagery included
here–like a breathtaking picture of an American flag, with the
Twin Towers suprimposed on it, one already wounded and burning,
bearing the statement “United We Fell/United We Shall Stand”–and
the courage, sensitivity and compassion of New York City’s schoolchildren
during those attacks shines forth. Some of the illustrations represent
youngsters’ attempts to come to terms with the unfathomable (so
many pictures represent the World Trade Center, whole and as it
was, reflecting perhaps children’s wish fulfillment that nothing
had changed). Some express the hope that families will be reunited.
Others show the planes crashing into the towers, as if by capturing
the loathsome imagery on paper, somehow it can be tamed and put
into some safe place.
The children’s voices are more profound than anything I could
express. Here are some examples:
Danielle, a Brooklyn fifth grader, writes, “I go home in peace./But
sleep in terror.”
Stephanie, a seventh grader from the Bronx, writes, “On September
11, the twin towers were torn apart./Along with it went a piece
of everyone’s heart.../On September 11, we were all changed/None
of us will ever be the same.”
From Sophie, a Manhattan fifth grader:
streaming across streets. People of different colors, different
races. People just walking away. People getting away from the
world behind them. Away from a world they don’t want to know about.
Away from tragedies they don’t want to face.”
It’s not all bleak. The author has organized the book around themes
that move to hope and memory. Amidst all the debate about how
to properly memorialize what happened at Ground Zero, I would
certainly hope that someone takes a close, and careful, look at
this book for inspiration and consolation.
I rarely want to keep the books I review once I’ve read them.
This is one that I can’t bear to return.#
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