Do you remember where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001? I do. I was in my senior English class at Zachary High School when a classmate checked into class late and told us a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. We were slightly amused at the thought of a plane literally crashing into a building, but that amusement turned into confusion then concern and fear as we realized it was a deliberate attack. Our teacher had decided to humor us and turned on the radio, so we heard when the second tower was hit. And the Pentagon. And a fourth plane had crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania. The rest of the school day was spent either listening to or watching news coverage, lessons forgotten, as the teachers were just as horrified as we were. All talk that day centered around the attacks. Would there be more attacks? Were we safe? Would Exxon be attacked? Did we know anyone on the planes or towers? Would we go to war? WHO would do this? All after school activities were cancelled, and the entire town attended prayer vigils. There was nothing else we could. What else could we do?
If you are reading this, you likely have your own memories and stories of that day. But our children do not. The oldest children, those who are 18 years old, were only four years old that day. 9-11 was a horrifying day in our history, but one that should not -CANNOT- be forgotten. I’ve compiled a short list of children’s books that gently introduce or teach about the events of 9-11. All can be found at Amazon.com or in the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system.
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
In the 1970’s a young street performer snuck into one of the unfinished towers of the World Trade Center, and with the help of his friends, strung a tight rope between the two towers. For over an hour he entertained New Yorkers by walking, dancing, and even faking a nap a quarter of a mile into the sky! The story is enchanting, and the illustrations (which won the book the Caldecott award) use great perspective making the reader feel as if she is watching the man walk between the towers. The book ends by simply stating that the towers are no longer there, but a memory. The events of September 11 are not explained in this book, but the book can serve as a gentle introduction to the topic for young children. My own two girls (ages 7 and 4) enjoyed this book as much my fourth grade students when I was a school teacher.
September Roses is an example of how people of all backgrounds came together during the aftermath of September 11. Two sisters in South Africa who were commercial rose growers, packed up thousands of beautiful roses and traveled New York City for a flower expo. Because of the attacks on 9-11, they were stranded at the airport with boxes and boxes of roses. A local offered them a place to stay, and they asked how they could repay the kindness. The sisters were taken to Union Square where they used their roses to create a beautiful tribute, bringing color and beauty into a dark time. The illustrations show an explosion on the towers, and evoke many emotions of the day, so keep that in mind if you choose to share this book with your children.
In 1931 the John J. Harvey fireboat was launched in New York City! It fought fires along the river for many years until it was retired and outdated and waiting to be sold for scrap metal. A group of friends decided to buy the John J. Harvey and fixed it, so that it was working and beautiful again. On September 11 when the planes hit the towers the owners decided to see how they could help, and the John J. Harvey fought the fires for four days. Fireboat is a book full of details and history. The illustrations show an explosion on the towers, but would be a great introduction to September 11 for any child who loves boats and vehicles.
America is Under Attack
Don Brown, the author of this book, is straight forward, and recounts all the important facts about September 11, yet remains sensitive to young readers. Quotes from eye witnesses are scattered throughout the book giving humanity to the tragedy. The images are all hand drawn illustrations that show the reality of the day, but nothing is too graphic for the target audience. With guidance of a loving parent or teacher, this book can be a great learning tool for children in upper elementary grades.