TV images shock young students
By SEAN FINE, The Globe and Mail
With a report from Wanda Kowalski
EDMONTON -- Moments after the 27 girls in teacher Christie Chorley's Grade 9 class absorbed, yet again, a televised image of an airplane crashing into the World Trade Center, there was something nearly as horrifying: a crowd celebrating, somewhere in the world, with cheers and hand slaps.
"I don't even know that the press was smart to show those pictures, because it's going to create hostility," Ms. Chorley told the 13- and 14-year-old girls, some white-skinned, some brown, some yellow, sitting at their desks in a large circle.
"There's going to be a war," a girl said.
The perilous future was the recurrent theme for the oldest and most sophisticated pupils at Edmonton's Oliver School, which contains an elementary co-ed program and an all-girls middle-school program. In some ways this was a class discussion like any other; the children could not help being cheerful. But there was the occasional flash of emotion. And virtually all had something to say.
Many students had already witnessed the morning's terrible events on television before coming to school, since Edmonton is two hours behind New York. By midmorning, the public school board sent an e-mail to all principals instructing them on key messages for students and staff.
The first was to reassure them that they are safe. Answer their questions but avoid speculation, and above all stick to regular school routines, the advisory said. And keep an eye out for children who may need counselling.
"No matter what you may hear from other children on the playground, you need to know you are safe," Grade 5 teacher Arief Ebrahim told his pupils. "You need an adult that you can talk to about this."
Ms. Chorley gave a brief description of the day's events, noting that the loss of life could be massive.
The children shared what they had seen or heard in the news media. One girl said that people were jumping out of the burning buildings.
Amy Vanderwoude passed on what she had heard on the radio. "They were saying the World Trade Center can hold a small town."
Erika Lund was full of emotion. "These people wake up in the morning and they go to work and they die."
Erika began to cry but continued to speak. "They think they're going to come home tonight and they won't because they're dead."
"What happened today makes you appreciate what you have," Danielle Stephens said. "We go to school and we have fun and then we go home and see our parents and siblings. And then this happens. Their lives have been ruined."
And the girls circled back to fear.
"Is there a chance that there could be a huge war now?"
"I think there's a chance," Ms. Chorley replied.
"Could Canada be called out?"
"I don't know, but I heard on the radio that our garrisons are on alert," Ms. Chorley said. "Canada is a peacekeeping nation. I don't know if we would get involved or not. The United States is like our big brother."
Danielle said her first thought had been that maybe Canada had done it. Then she realized the U.S. is Canada's main trading partner. Her peers laughed.
Then a building collapsed on the classroom television and the children gasped.