Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Remembering September 11th, 2001

As the decennial anniversary approaches, we are surrounded by reminders of September 11th, 2001. TV stations replay horrifying footage of the plane hitting the twin towers, newspapers are filled with personal recollections of the day, and follow-up stories on the families of victims populate the web. So vivid are our recollections, that many of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing at 8:46 that September morning.

But, what about our children who weren't around on that fateful day 10 years ago, yet are still privy to these circulating images and stories? Children who may not be familiar with the tragic events, or who might be confused by the sniptets they have overheard. How do we broach the topic of 9/11in an informative way that is age appropriate and not overly graphic?

The following two stories focus on touching responses to 9/11 that treat the destruction and devastation of the day as a background story, not as the main topic. As a result, you can determine how deep you want to delve into the events of 9/11, and adjust to your child's needs and reactions.

"14 Cows For America," by Carmen Agra Deedy and Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
This story focus on a Maasai tribe member who happened to be studying in New York City in September of 2011. Haunted by the devastation and injustices of the day he returns to his tribe for permission to gift his cow- a symbol of life- to America in an international show of support. Not only does the council grant Kimeli's request, but gifts an additional 13 cows.

While the story focuses on Kimeli's trip back to Kenya and the gifting of the cows, the events of 9/11 are referenced. Kimeli speaks of an event that "burned a hole in his heart," refering to "buildings so tall they can touch the sky," "fires so hot they can melt iron," and "smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun." These descriptions provide a spring board for discussing the tragic event, but do not make them the focus of the story.

"Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey," by Maria Kalman
Past its prime, The John J. Harvey is pulled from his duty as New York Harbor fireboat, slated to be scrapped. A group of eight friends, eager for a piece of history, save the historic fireboat and work to restore it to its former glory. Now a pleasure vessel, the Harvey is well known in the rivers it frequents. On September 11th, when firetruck scramble to fight the flames at the World Trade Center due to damaged and destroyed hydrants, the John J. Harvey answers the frantic call for help. For four days and nights Harvey helps to fight the flames along side New York's remaining two fireboats.

Although the story mentions to destruction and devastation of the day- "The sky filled with fire and smoke. The buildings exploded and fell down to the ground. Many people were hurt. Many lives were lost."- it focuses on the response of the people, and the heroic role of the John J. Harvey as they all came together to help in the aftermath of the tower collapse.

These read alouds provide a perfect opportunity to discuss the events of September 11th, 2001 in a safe, comforting environment. References to the events of that day encourage conversation and discussion, but are truly just a sidebar to the heartwarming central stories. Just be sure to keep a box of tissues nearby!


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