Written by Dennis Brindell Fradin
It is interesting how I cannot remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday morning, but I can remember almost every miniscule detail of September 11, 2001—an event in history that happened ten years ago this September. I was just starting my senior year of high school and was sitting in Calculus class completing my math warm-up. I can still picture everything about the classroom that day—my outfit, where I was sitting, who I was sitting with, and the expressions on the faces of all of my peers and my teacher when the announcement came on and our principal let us know of the situation happening with the World Trade Center.
Since I lived through September 11th, I never found that I chose to read any informational books about the events of that day. When I started teaching in 2006, I realized my first grade students did not know anything about 9/11. It occurred to me at that moment that I would never teach a student who was around during 9/11 and that they would likely be too young to really understand what happened.
I wondered what the appropriate age is for students to know about the details of 9/11. Recently, I have read the story, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordecai Gerstein, to my third grade students in order to remember and open the room up for discussion about the horrific events of that day. This is a story based on the true story of tightrope walker Philippe Petit who walked between the Twin Towers when they were first built. This story simply tells readers about the terrific feat that Petit accomplished and ends with the fact that the Towers are no longer there. It does not provide information as to how or why the Towers are gone.
Since then I have wondered how the attacks on September 11th are presented to children. The informational text, September 11, 2001, written by Dennis Brindell Fradin explains some details of the attacks on the United States in a simplified way. The book includes information on what September 11th is, background information on the conflicts going on in the world for centuries, the events leading up to 9/11, the actual hijackings and attacks, the brave people on the third hijacked plane, and information on the War on Terrorism.
Real photographs of the events of 9/11 accompany the text. The photographs are difficult to look at but are necessary in order to help children to understand the significance of the event. The photographs show the plane flying into one of the Towers and the accompanying explosion before the Towers collapsed. There are no photographs of the debris once the Towers were down. There are also photographs of the damaged Pentagon.
I felt this book provided a good introduction to children about the events of 9/11. It did not go into a lot of detail about any particular aspect, but provided enough information to keep readers engaged and wanting to know more. There were not too many reviews of this book online, but I was able to find one through Amazon. The book was only given one star and was not recommended because the reviewer felt the information in the story had been oversimplified—particularly in the area of the main causes for the events of 9/11 occurring. He felt that the reasons for the attacks are still being debated and that it would have been better if the author talked about this in the book.
I do not feel as though children should necessarily be sheltered from learning about important events in history, but I do feel as though many of the events leading up to 9/11 may be entirely too complex for a child to developmentally understand. Therefore, I feel as though Fradin’s book provided a solid basis of events and leaves the reader wondering and wanting to seek more information.
I always remember as a child asking my grandmother, “What was it like during the Civil Rights Movement? Or, what was it like during the Great Depression?” No matter how many questions I asked, I never felt like I truly understood because I did not live it. Now, with 9/11, it is the same thing—except now I am the one being asked, “What was it like?”