FEMA's 9/11 Coloring Book Aims to Teach Kids About Tragedy

Photo: The cover of the book, â??A Scary Thing Happened,â?? is illustrated with a plane headed toward New York Cityâ??s Twin Towers, a home ripped to shreds from a tornado and a crashed car.

Staying inside the lines took on grim, new meaning when children used a coloring book posted on a federal government Web site that depicted the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Instead of princesses and puppies, children's crayons in "A Scary Thing Happened" took to filling in pages of carnage, flames, and a burnt out car.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's coloring book, which has offered pictures of 9/11 and other disasters for the last six years, finally came down last week. A spokesperson for FEMA declined to say what prompted the book's removal from the site.

"The coloring book, which was put online in 2003, was removed last week and FEMA is currently reviewing all Web content designed and posted by the previous administration," FEMA spokesman Clark Stevens told ABCNews.com in a written statement.

Rose Olmsted, the coordinator of the Freeborn County Crisis Response Team in Minnesota, the group that publishes the book, said that she is not sure why the book is no longer on FEMA's Web site.

"I've never received any criticism of the book until yesterday," said Olmsted. "Everything we've heard in terms of feedback has been positive."

Asking children to draw and color to express their feelings after experiencing a traumatic event -- also known as art therapy -- is common, according to mental health professionals. This type of therapy is best when it's tailored to each individual child, however, some warn. Olmsted said the idea for the book came after a tornado touched down in southern Minnesota in 2003 and parents looked for ways to help their kids understand what they had experienced.

"We became aware that we had no coloring book that would help children to be able to put words to what they had experienced and the devastation they had seen," said Olmsted.

Two therapists and an illustrator created the book, said Olmsted, and included images of tornadoes as well as other disasters -- one page depicts a Hurricane Katrina-like scenario -- to help kids comprehend catastrophic events.

"The book represents all the disasters that children have potentially had to deal with," said Olmsted.

Thousands of hard copies of the book have been circulated, in addition to the untraceable number of people who downloaded the material off of FEMA's site before it was taken down, Olmsted said.

"I can't tell you how many calls I've received over the years asking if different communities can use the book," she told ABC News.

Communities in Australia used the book after the wildfires there, said Olmsted, and families used it to teach their kids about the Minnesota bridge collapse in 2007.

Marla Brassard, an associate professor of psychology and education at the Teacher's College at Columbia University in New York, said that she saw nothing wrong with the images depicted in "A Scary Thing Happened."

"Kids who have been through a hurricane or a terrorist event or a car wreck are going to have seen much worse than what they're coloring in the book," said Brassard.

"I certainly don't think this will be frightening to kids," said Brassard. "That's a false worry."

L.A.-based psychologist Debbie Then said that while she does see coloring as an effective coping mechanism for children who have experienced traumatic events, she warns against one tool being used too broadly.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
A Gilchrist county sheriffs car sits at the end of a trailer home where 7 members of a family were slain by their grandfather in Bell, FL, Thursday, Sept., 18, 2014. The grandfather, Don Spirit, pictured, also killed himself.
Phil Sandlin/AP Photo | Gilchrist County Sheriffs Office
PHOTO:
St. Andre Bessette Catholic Church in Ecorse Michigan
PHOTO: Phoenix police officers escort Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer, to the 4th Avenue Jail following his arrest, Sept. 17, 2014 in Phoenix.
The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski/AP Photo