10-year-olds remember 10th anniversary of 9/11
By BY KAYLA BELL - KBELL@VICAD.COM
Sept. 10, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.
Ten years after the attacks on Sept. 11, the voices of mostly 10-year-olds rang through the halls of O'Connor Elementary School, declaring they'll never forget.
"We remember, we remember, the day we all stood strong," they sang. "We remember, we remember, when we were one in song."
Of course, the only thing this class of fifth-graders remembered of 9/11 was what they'd heard second hand.
"Do you know what happened 10 years ago," their music teacher, Leslie Whittemore asked.
"The two buildings - they fell," one answered.
"There were hijackers," another responded.
Whittemore explained the events to them flatly: 19 hijackers, four planes, nearly 3,000 dead.
Two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. Another hit the Pentagon - where our nation's military is housed, a student chimed. Passengers in yet another plane attempted to take over the aircraft, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
"That day, every single plane in the United States stopped. No air traffic. Everything in the United States, everything went still," Whittemore said, looking around during a long pause. "Just like it's quiet right now."
The fifth-graders were silent, leaning forward from the risers, scouring for a view of a few photos on the 9/11 Attacks Wikipedia page.
"There was a day when freedom's touch seemed very far away," they would sing. "There was a day that looked like night we dreamed of yesterday."
In one quick sentence, Whittemore summed up the damage - the debris and smoke that made the city that never sleeps look like it was in the midst of perpetual night.
If the kids wanted to see those pictures, they'd have to ask their parents. They were too graphic for school.
Instead, Whittemore seemingly effortlessly simplified the terrorist attacks into what 10-year-olds can understand, emphasizing American patriotism. They wore red, white and blue peace signs, doves, and star tattoos on their cheeks. They sung, surrounded by American flags draped over musical instruments.
"I just try and get down to their level, and their eyes, how they would view it," Whittemore said.
Most of the kids mentioned "that guy" who died, hinting at the freshest information from 9/11 in their 10-year-old minds was the death of Osama bin Laden.
Others mentioned hearing of people who knew people who died in the attacks.
"I would be screaming," Patricia Medina, 10, said.
"I would have probably fainted," Kaylynn Garcia, 10, added.
Patricia said she thought it was important for her and her classmates to learn about 9/11 so they could relate to the feelings of its victims.
Whittemore, meanwhile, was interrupting the musical chorus to encourage the kids, "You gotta mean it," and "Say this with confidence."
"We remember, we remember, the day we all stood strong," they sang, louder this time. "We remember, we remember, when we were one in song."