- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

Area schools struggled to re-establish a routine yesterday while helping children deal with the loss of four local students and three teachers on the first day of school after Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York.
Teachers urged students to talk about the catastrophe, and every now and then, anger came through.
"It makes me so mad, just so mad," said Markita Bowman, 17, a senior at Phelps High School in Northeast. "Those children were so little. That wasn't necessary. They didn't have to do that."
Bernard Brown, 11, and teacher Hilda Taylor of Leckie Elementary; Rodney Dickens, 11, and teacher James Debeuneure of Ketchum Elementary; and Asia Cottom, 11, and teacher Sarah Clark of Backus Middle School were on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Among the 64 passengers and crew members killed on the flight was a former student from University Park Elementary in Hyattsville — Zoe Falkenberg, 9.
Other area children could have been affected. Northern Virginia has several residents who work at the Pentagon, where at least 126 persons were killed in the crash. Fairfax County schools spokesman Paul Regnier yesterday said some children in the school system probably had lost a parent or relatives.
The three D.C. schools that lost students and teachers and University Park Elementary closed their doors to the media yesterday, requesting "peace time" to help students and staff recover.
But at an afternoon press conference, teachers at Backus Middle School in Northeast recalled Miss Clark and Asia, both of whom were going to an ecology conference sponsored by the National Geographic Society in Santa Barbara, Calif., when their plane was hijacked and deliberately flown into the Pentagon.
"She [Miss Clark] was a special person, always an encouragement and respected and loved by her students and their parents," said Lizzie Jones, a longtime friend and frequent teaching partner.
Miss Clark worked in the District's public schools for more than 40 years, five of them at Backus. Seventh-grade teacher Cleo White remembered her as a good listener. "If I had a problem, she was always there for me," she said.
Public schools around the District held two memorial services yesterday, where students, staff and teachers could pray for those who died Tuesday. At Bethesda Elementary, children displayed flags they had made themselves.
In Prince George's County, schools will observe a moment of silence at noon today in memory of the dead, schools spokeswoman Athena Ware said.
Local students also are taking the lead in helping victims. At Northwestern High in Hyattsville, students gave money and planned a blood drive. At University Park Elementary School, children planned to plant a tree in memory of Zoe.
"It's been a very difficult time for us," said the school's principal, Brenda Foxx. "We're trying to maintain a normal day for the sake of the children."
She described the former student as "a courageous and charming young lady."
" This tragedy hasn't been easy for any of us," she said.
Parents said they were glad schools were reaching out to children because teen-agers often have trouble communicating with family.
"Everybody has to be communicating with each other at a time like this, and school is a very big part of children's life. It is where their friends are," said Whitney Henry, whose son attends Lake Braddock Secondary in Fairfax.
Students also received words of comfort from first lady and former teacher Laura Bush, who sent a letter to all schools around the country.
"The feelings and thoughts that surround this tragedy are as plentiful as they are conflicting. I want to reassure you that there are many people — including your family, your teachers, and your school counselors — who are there to listen to you," Mrs. Bush wrote.
Local schools, meanwhile, prepared for short-term and long-term changes in the aftermath of the attacks. Principal Reginald Burke of Phelps High School said that over the long term, plans will emerge to integrate what happened into the curriculum. "This has changed our life," he said.
Ellen Sorokin and Brian DeBose contributed to this report.

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