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Children Speak After Horrific Terrorism

Maybe you noticed it. Parents and their children walking to school, especially in New York and Washington, walked a little closer together, hands held a little tighter.

The question was what to tell the children about the attack on America.

CBS's Sharyl Attkisson in Washington has our report.

For those who were hit so close to home, it was the first day back at school in a changed world.

One child said, "I think it was really sad. It was really sad because a lot of people died."

Two hundred counselors were deployed to schools in the District of Columbia--on a mission to fight fear and grief.

Sherry Blankenship, one parent, said of her daughter, "Her fear right now is that it is going to happen again, and I think that is a very legitimate fear."

Experts advise parents to tell their children it's okay to feel scared, that It's okay to be sad, and it's normal to feel angry.

Children said, "It was horrible. It made me want to cry." One child said, "I think we should just kill them all."

The question of what to tell children is even more difficult when the loss is more personal. Leckie Elementary in Washington, DC, lost a teacher and an 11-year-old student in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. There are 30 counselors at this one school alone to help children cope. They wrote goodbye letters to their classmate, Bernard Brown. Goodbye letters also went to the teacher, Hilda Taylor, with touching words: "Ms. Taylor I miss you, Love Darryl."

"The feelings are going to be more intense here because they knew the teacher as well as their fellow classmate. How do you keep them from feeling overly fearful and sad? By spending time with them and encouraging them, by touching them, by giving them hugs," said Georgia Booker, director of Counseling Services for DC schools.

Children everywhere are in need of those hugs, touched by the frightening images of kids their own age running in terror.

"I really can't understand why people did this. If I had been on the airplane, I would be really scared," said one child.

Emilea, a little girl, said, "I thought it was really sad that all of those people got killed inside the airplane and inside the building. My sister told me she saw a person with a white shirt jump off the building."

In fact, if there was one horrible image that seemed to haunt children the most, it was the sight of people jumping from the burning World Trade Center.

"A lot of people just jumped off the building. It was really sad looking at that, seeing all those people dying and just jumping," said Andre Diaz.

"Why would people jump from the building? Why don't they just take a chance to get out of there?" said one St. Louis boy.

Back in Washington, DC, proximity poses an added challenge.

"It was close to us, that's one thing. Because it could have gone into school, so we would be dead right now," said one teenager.

Peggy Cooper Cafritz, president of the DC Bord of Education, said, "It's important that by living here, fear not grip them. You know, 'Omigod I live in Washington,' but instead, 'Omigod I'm very special because I live in the nation's capitol.'"

Right now, most of these kids would rather not be so "special."
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