Children's Take On 9/11

wtc, 911, david kohn
Crayon drawings of airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center accompany poems about Sept. 11 in a book to be released by the New York City school system that documents children's response to the terrorist attack.

"Too many people died. I'm scared. I cried," begins one entry in the more than 200-page "Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11, 2001," which is set to be released on the anniversary of the disaster.

Schools Chancellor Harold Levy and Shelley Harwayne, superintendent of district 2 in lower Manhattan, directed the effort to compile the drawings and writings because "our children attempted to use their words and their art to wrap their arms around the tragedy," reads the introduction signed by both administrators. Proceeds go to children who lost a parent or were forced to evacuate their schools. The money will help with academic support and after-school programs.

In the first section, which includes children's interpretations of what they saw on Sept. 11, one youngster's drawing shows the twin towers, detailed to include the north tower's broadcast antennae. The tail of an airplane juts from the south tower, as smoke and fire billow into the blue sky, where a yellow sun shines.

Next to the drawing is an excerpt from a child's essay.

"There was also an explosion coming from my heart when I saw the ball of fire," it reads.

Another child drew the city skyline in black, below a yellow mushroom cloud. Hovering in the cloud is a skull.

In the second section, which compiles children's attempts to understand the attacks, one child writes that he dreams of confronting Osama bin Laden, as a child.

"I look into his eyes and try to ask him, 'Do you need help? Do you need love?'"

The last section includes children's messages of hope.

One drawing shows two red candles, dripping wax-like tears, standing in the skyline where the twin towers once stood.

"Hope is that source of strength, that feeling that gets you through the day ... It's what helps us overcome the obstacles that we face," reads one entry.

A study released by New York City schools in May found that 76 percent of city schoolchildren often thought about the terrorist attack six months after Sept. 11, 24 percent had problems sleeping and 17 percent had nightmares.

In the 1.1 million-student school system, an estimated 75,000 children showed six or more symptoms of post-traumatic stress - enough to be diagnosed with the disorder.

Nearly 90 percent of city schoolchildren were suffering at least one symptom.

Researchers studied more than 8,000 children in grades 4-12 in 94 schools and found that children throughout the city - not just near ground zero - showed symptoms of several psychiatric problems.
By Sara Kugler