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Through The Eyes Of Children

Last year, each American dealt with the Sept. 11 tragedy in his or her own way. In New York, many school kids expressed their feeling by drawing pictures and writing essays. Now, a collection of that work has been published in a book that offers some surprising insights.

"Today, I was thinking about something but somehow the World Trade thing came to mind... I was thinking that the world was stuck to the palm of my hand and I cannot get it off," says Shomari Smartt.

"On Sept. 11, my Mom picked me up early from school, she asked if I knew what had happened," remembers Jenna Fass.

Imagine what it would be like to see Sept. 11 though the eyes of a child.

"She said that's not all that happened she said. There were two airplanes and they went straight for the twin tower. When it hit there was a huge explosion. The smoke came zooming down. People ran for their lives. The smoke came rushing," says Jenna.

Nearly 150 drawings, poems and essays by New York City school kids fill the pages of a new book titled "Messages to Ground Zero." But New York school superintendent Shelly Harwayne says the children didn't set out to write a book.

"It was inevitable that this would show up. They were living it every day, and I think, in fact, in some places teachers did encourage them. But they just let them respond to the events. In fact, at the beginning, our littlest kids, our youngest writers, our youngest children, they asked for so many Legos and Duplos and Play-Doh, because they all wanted to create. I think there was a natural feeling, an urge to create, to compose in response to such a horrific act," says Harwayne.

"In this drawing, I basically just drew a girl" explains Wendy Lee. "In the beginning, she is really sad, because she lost some parents in the WTC. The other thing in the picture is a flag. Basically, I drew the flag to prove that we should be proud to be living in this nation even though our buildings broke and things die."

"I look in the book everybody's drawings were great," she continues, pointing at a drawing. "This is one of the pictures I like, because the drawing shows a dog looking for bodies, hoping there is survivors. It is good that people draw this because you show about yourself. You're telling people how you feel about the WTC and saying that you're not alone."

"I've always believed that children do look at the world differently. I think in this event as well they saw different things. I think that will enlighten us if we look at the world through children's eyes," says Harwayne.

Though some work is unflinchingly dark, Harwayne says that the book as a whole is hopeful.

"This little one -- I love it, because it's in crayon, so you know the child is young. To me, the choice of colors is so hopeful. It's filled with all these pastels and all these kind rescue workers hugging each other and rescuing each other. I think it's a hopeful look at the rescue workers and a little pride in New York City," she says.

These grade schoolers say the art and writing helped them through a difficult time and that now they're glad it will help others remember.

"When I express my feelings I feel better, of how things happened. But it still comes back sometimes, but I still feel better," says Shomari.

"I think that it's going to be a good experience for the people who are going to read. They are actually going to find out. So if they didn't care so much about the twin towers, when they read this they are going to understand like how other people felt," says Jenna.

From the book Shomari reads, "I try to think of other things, but everything seems connected. It's like I'm walking through a maze but every path leads me to the place I'm trying to get away from. I will not forget the World Trade Center it will travel through my mind and heart forever."

Profits from the sale of "Messages To Ground Zero" will benefit the New York City schools most affected by Sept. 11.