SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Special Report

September 9, 2011

Sept. 11: The next generation

Schools focus on remembrance, resilience, hope at 10th anniversary

Most adults say they will never forget where they were the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, or the poignant images seen in newspapers and on television that day and in the days and weeks that followed.

Yet there are many children in the public schools who were not even born yet in 2001 and older students who were just toddlers or young children.

Local teachers and administrators are acutely aware they are marking the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 with children who have no firsthand knowledge or memory of the fateful day the U.S. came under terrorist attack. Each school on the North Shore is handling the anniversary differently, but one thing remains the same: Staffers are being very intentional in the way they handle lessons and questions about Sept. 11.

From having counselors visit classrooms to making thank-you cards for local police and firefighters, North Shore teachers and school administrators have planned ahead and talked through the activities and discussions taking place in each classroom.

"You want to focus on the positive," said Maryellen McGrath, principal of South Memorial Elementary School in Peabody. "... reassuring children they're going to be safe, but telling them the truth at the same time."

"If they happen to ask 'could this happen again?' we have to answer truthfully, that it could ... We want to make sure our children understand they are safe and there's been a lot of things that have been put into place for the security of our country."

School districts were just starting the year — in some towns, students had been in class for less than a week — as Sept. 11 was discussed yesterday.

Most schools observed a moment of silence. Others focused on community service or outreach to military families to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary.

In Beverly, Briscoe Middle School students hung writings and mementos on a wall of remembrance this week, and Beverly High School students covered the hillside in front of the school with "pinwheels for peace" yesterday after a morning flag ceremony.

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