- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

Five months ago, from their vantage point across the water, Ann Miller's seventh- and eighth-graders saw smoke rising from the Pentagon after hearing the "kaboom" of a plane smashing into the building.
What happened? They wanted to know. Who did it and how? Why?
From that sad September day arose endless questions, fear and grief from the nation's children. Some educators responded by holding discussions. Others encouraged students to make presents, collect money and write letters to victims in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Afghanistan.
In Ms. Miller's social studies and history classes at Jefferson Junior High School in Southwest, terrorism took a formal place in the curriculum.
"Jefferson [Junior High School] is so close to the Pentagon," said Ms. Miller. "I told my students, 'Guys, this is history.' The kids were full of questions and answers. We are trying to make sure the attacks and aftermath aren't isolated. We are talking and analyzing and trying to put the events into context."
It was a morning in her class like any other when the news came of planes hitting the World Trade Center.
"We turned on the television, went to the computer and looked for information," she recalled. "We were able to witness what was going on."
Then the students heard the crash, and the windows of the room rattled. "What's going on, Ms. Miller?" the children asked.
"Some were afraid. Some were strong," she said. "Then parents started coming in for their children."
The next day, Ms. Miller learned that one of her best friends, Hilda Taylor, a D.C. schoolteacher, had been on that plane. One of Ms. Miller's students, Anthony, cried in her arms over his former teacher. Ms. Miller decided she needed to take action, and got terrorism into her curriculum.
The students wrote essays on what the U.S. response should be. They talked about the ongoing trial of John Walker Lindh, an American arrested in Afghanistan for helping the militant Islamic Taliban regime that ruled the country until late last year, and his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. They explored the role of the media and debated First Amendment rights. They discussed the "undeclared" war in Afghanistan and the role of Congress in conflicts.
Ms. Miller also found a curriculum developed by the American Forum for Global Education called "Terrorism What Every Teacher Should Know." The guide defines terrorism, analyzes and examines the issues and consequences of terrorism, and provides case studies on how other countries have grappled with it.
"It's a great supplement," she said. "The kids still want to talk about it every day."
During a discussion Tuesday of September 11 and its aftermath, students expressed anger, confusion, sadness and a hunger to know more.
"I was afraid at first after hearing about the World Trade Center," said Ricardo Thomas, 13. "And I am still afraid of airplanes, thinking, 'What if [terrorist mastermind] Osama [bin Laden] and Taliban people pop out of nowhere?'"
"A lot of people had bad feelings and were angry," said Christine Reed, 13, an eighth-grader. "They had to let those feelings out."
"I knew about terrorism before, because of the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center and the embassy bombings in Africa," said Erick Whitaker, 13.
Most of the students expressed disappointment with explanations of who was behind the attacks, and how and why they occurred. They said the media had not done a good job explaining and had "said the same thing over and over in a different way." Most students said they were more interested in world events post-September 11 and wanted to know more about Islam. And all expressed a need for the nation to respond to the attacks.
"He did the right thing," said Musa Jawara, 13, of President Bush's war on terrorism. "If I was president, I would have had to do that, too. Even though it isn't technically a war, it is going over there and bombing."
The students were sad about the backlash against Muslims, including students they know. They also expressed dismay at school incidents where some picked on others with such comments as "You are wearing Osama Bin Laden boots," or "Those are Taliban stockings."
Nowadays, the students watch the Lindh trial. And through world events, they learn about U.S. constitutional rights and protections, a changing government and international politics.

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