Special Readers’ Forum Terror Touches Schools

September 11, 2001 11 min read
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Schools across the nation grappled with Tuesday’s tragic events and how to help students, staff, and parents cope. Some schools held assemblies; others kept in-class TVs tuned to news all day. Some allowed students to make unlimited calls home. Others released students early. Still others withheld information from students, letting parents decide what to tell their children.

Did your school stay open or close early? How did students learn what had happened? How did students and staff react? Did your school reach out to parents with extra help? Or try to maintain business as usual? Use this space to share your thoughts, feelings, and questions about how your school managed during the dramatic events of Sept. 11.

The forum is closed, but you can still browse past comments:

Name: David Weiss
Date Posted: 09/12/2001 10:36PM
Location: Long Island
Comment: There are some good links on the American Psychological Association web for dealing with Disasters: both on the home page and if you search for Oklahoma City

Name: Gloria Satchell
Date Posted: 09/13/2001 7:19AM
Location: Kingsville, Texas
Comment: I learned of the tragedy while supervising the hall outside my classroom between classes. My initial reaction was “you kids believe too much of what you hear, I’ve been to that building and that is not possible;" BUT the teacher next door verified the statement and immediate sense of horror and, a desire to know more and a fierce determination to remain calm. A message from the principal was hand delivered directing teachers to NOT turn on TV’s nor radioes and to wait further information from the administration (which never came). I did not teach geometry that period. We spent the class time discussing feelings, reactions, and the directive to not watch TV. I insisted that the directive was surely meant to help control panic not to suppress information and that initial reports would surely not be able to answer the questions of who?, how?, why? and how many and specifically-who is lost? I cried many times that night--every time I failed to learn of my own daughter’s whereabouts. She lives in New Jersey and works in NYC. I did contact my best friend whose husband was on his way to a meeting in the towers and he saw the second plane hit the building. His offices are closed and the building is now a makeshift morgue. It took two days but I learned her building is not in close proximity to the disaster and she is on vacation, sailing in the Caribbean. Today I will be much better able to focus on my students and their academic needs.

Name: Diane Thomson
Date Posted: 09/13/2001 11:36AM
Location: Wisconsin
Comment: I am an education student with only one year left. I am also a parent with two sons in elementary school. I think it’s very important that we, as educators, use our positions as someone who gives the necessary amount of information to the students. I’m not advocating that we tell everything or show graphic information from the TV, but even kindergartners should be told that something bad happened in New York. A teacher can be objective without scaring a child. In the school where I will intern, the principal gave the directive for the teachers to give out no information. The teachers said absolutely nothing to their students. My sons are in a different school, but I was petrified Tuesday, that if they had heard nothing in their schools, they would turn on the TV or hear from students on the bus before I arrived home. I was grateful that their teachers had briefly mentioned what happened and allowed the students the opportunity to voice their concerns and feelings. Yes, it’s important that we don’t cross the line with parents, but to not talk sends the wrong message. Some children don’t even have parents at home. Who can these children trust for communication?

Name: Mario Navetta
Date Posted: 09/13/2001 11:59AM
Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
Comment: << Our high school in Jersey City is nearly opposite the WTC, just a short trip across the Hudson River. Ironically, our first written/disscussed topic for yesterday was, “American History: Who Cares?”. As expected, the kids wrote about how boring it is, and how it’s , "...not about us, or things that happen around here.” Today, from the vantage point of our east facing windows, all that has changed.....mario>>

Name: Patty Ann Bryant
Date Posted: 09/13/2001 1:41PM
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Comment: Our Middle school choose to explain and inform. We spent a good part of our school morning watching the news reports, in english and spanish; explaining the terms and their meanings; the historical relevance and connections; and discussing what we could do on the other side of the country. The kids all want to do something. The elementary school is starting a penny drive. All our kids are inner city and not a lot of discretionary income, so we discussed a quilt, like they did for Columbine, make and distribute ribbons.... any ideas out there. We decide on Friday.

Name: Judi Luciani
Date Posted: 09/14/2001 10:12AM
Location: UW-Madison
Comment: I am a first year elementary education student at Univ. of WI-Madison and the mother of an eight year-old boy. The Madison school district decided to not tell the elementary students and let parents discuss the tragedy as they wished. My son was so angry to hear of this outrageous behavior. I was so sad to see him so angry at such a young age. But I also realize he is strong, patriotic, and loyal. He would defend his fellow man and country and that makes me proud. I am trying to learn from current teachers how they are handling this terrible situation, but I pray I will never need to use those skills. Finally, thank you to all the brave citizens in this country who are dealing with the aftermath. Bless you all and go home and find someone to hug.

Name: PDG
Date Posted: 09/14/2001 5:25PM
Location: South Carolina
Comment: I am having to write a graduate research paper relating to curriculm. I am interested in all of your thoughts as educators about your predictions of how our curriculm will change due to the awful Attack on America. Please e-mail me your predictions, thoughts, etc. at Thanks all of you who touch the future!!

Name: Ellen
Date Posted: 09/15/2001 3:03AM
Comment: My elementary school (10 minutes outside of San Francisco) remained open, while neighboring SF schools closed. Students came into class that morning looking up at me hoping I had all the answers to why this all happened. They were curious, frightened, confused and anxious. We spent 45 minutes listening and discussing, looking at maps. We then went about our usual schedule, while keeping on the radio in the background. At the end of the day, one student commented at how much better he felt than in the morning. He felt less anxious and more at peace. We have made a large poster for all students to sign. We will send it to Mayor Guiliani. Children feel so empowered when they are able to connect in a small way to a large tragedy like this.

Name: Raymond Orkwis
Date Posted: 09/21/2001 10:03AM
Location: Arlington, Virginia
Comment: I teach English composition at a community college in northern Virginia with an extremely varied student body, representing many cultures and religions from all areas of the world. Though everyone in our country was greviously wounded by the attacks that Tuesday, we in the DC area, I think, were particularly traumatized, just as people in New York were. When it happens right next to you and when people you know were on the planes or worked in the buildings, you feel it very deep in the pit of your stomach; when military planes keep flying overhead, you know the sound of terror. Given this level of consciousness and given that it is my charge to teach critical thinking, I gathered an assortment of poetry, reflections, and critical essays, which I copied off for discussion. Coincidentally, the assignment due that very Tuesday was an essay discussing tolerance. Classes, of course, had been cancelled most of that week, so when the students returned last week, the issue of tolerance had taken on a much sharper edge and many had rewritten their papers after the attacks. The theme of tolerance led naturally into our discussions over the next three hours, which analyzed the political consequences as well as philosophical ramifications of any actions the United States might take; more importantly, we discussed human nature, in the form of a personal essay by a firefighter at the World Trade Center and in several poems that celebrated the beauty of the human soul in the face of tragedy. After class, a few students came up to me and thanked me for taking up these topics as part of our class. Several of the students had friends and family who worked in the Pentagon, but all of us needed to deal with the conflicting emotions running through our minds and hearts, and I felt glad that I was able to harness these feelings and channel them through the natural subject matter of the course. Though most of the discussion in this forum seems to be centered on children in elementary, middle, or secondary classes, remember that college students, though adults, also need a great deal of reassurance and direction. Teachers at all educational levels are basically doing the same work, filling the same role, giving the same hope.

Name: Lori Rivera
Date Posted: 09/21/2001 4:58PM
Location: San Antonio, TX
Comment: I teach on an Army base and I have never seen an event freeze these children in the tracks so is as if they knew what was coming...that their parents would be called into action. They were strong, unified, comforting and supportive of each other. I worry for them and their families in the coming weeks. But I also commend their courage and bravery.

Name: Bob
Date Posted: 09/27/2001 7:55PM
Comment: I was teaching fifth grade in Indianapolis. I was very happy to be at a private school. Before school had started, I had students walk into my room and ask to turn on the radio because they were telling me what they had heard about the attack. Unfortunately, I was in a school where the only TV was in the teacher’s lounge. The best part of being in the private school was our ability to set up a church service where we took the students over to pray in one of the darkest hours of our nation’s history. I looked around at all the faces of the students, especially my daughter, and felt comfort that they were able to pray and hear a talk from the pastor at such a terrifying time.

Name: Gertrudisschule
Date Posted: 10/02/2001 4:11AM
Location: Bochum, Germany
Comment: Hello and hi to all the children and teachers in Manhattan schools, we’re teachers and students at a small German Primary School in Bochum. We feel very sorry about all that has happened in your city. All of us are very sad. We want to tell you that we all think of you and that we hope you’ll have people to help and comfort you. Some of our children aged 8, 9 or 10 have written some postcards for your students. They want to say hello and want to tell you how they feel. So God bless you all, Sabine Burkhardt, Meike Nottbohm, Eva Sworowski -teachers and mothers, too- and the students of class 3 c of Gertrudisschule from Bochum, Germany. We’d like you to send us youe e-mail address so we ‘ll be able to send you our childrens postcards, too.

Name: Danielle Yglesias
Date Posted: 10/17/2001 12:07PM
Comment: My Sister and her family are residents of Battery Park City; her two children, my niece Jackie and nephew Cliff were students at P.S. 89, the school closest to the WTC. My nephew’s classroom window looked right at the Towers and he saw the first plane hit. He’s only four years old. The children have not been allowed to return to their classrooms, instead the city has moved them to a previously abandoned school on Avenue D to which my sister does not have access to by public transportation should anything else occur. The majority of parents of the children of PS 89 do not want their children to be at this inaccessible school, but due to the evacuation of the neighborhood few parents were able to get to the PTA meeting to have their voices heard. Due to this displacement, it has been hard for the children to get back to their normal routines and feel “safe” once again. I feel this a great injustice to these children who have already experienced too much trauma. While I realize the Offices of the City are overloaded with work, I still feel a need to ask the Board of Education, “Is there nothing better the city can do for them???”

Name: Kimberlee
Date Posted: 12/09/2001 11:26AM
Location: Charlotte,NC
Comment: Hello, I have dedicated my personal website to the World Trade Center Towers Art Project. Soon after September 11th, I found myself looking for any photos I had of the towers. I am not sure why, maybe I wanted reassure myself that they were once there. Once I found a picture I had an idea. Wouldn’t be wonderful to have pictures like this of people from all walks of life with the same common thread running between them? I am collecting as many as I can (either via email or mail) and would like to collage them onto a 3 dimensional model of the towers. With this email I am hoping to reach a school that would be interested in helping with the collection of photos - the more people who know, the more succesful this project can be. Sincerely, Kim Davis Please feel free to explore the website: P.S. I also would welcome your personal photos, ideas, questions and suggestions regarding this project. Please feel free to pass this site along!


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