Kids on War, Peace and Terrorism

"I know it was an act of terrorism. It happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Thousands were killed. It was a very sad day for our country. Our firefighters and police were killed."

And a 15-year-old boy said this:

"I know that men of different culture, different ideals, came to our country 'cause they thought that they knew our reputation of being greedy, of being mean people, and decided that they will stop us by killing thousands of innocent people that didn't deserve to die. And they did something that I am not even sure they believed themselves. They were just told that they should believe. The leading man, Osama bin Laden, who said that this is worth dying for, wouldn't even put his own life at risk."

Interestingly, the children did not associate terrorism with any particular religion, or race, Walker says. None made references to prayer, God, or religious institutions when asked about Sept. 11.

"We asked the kids what a terrorist looks like," Walker said. "Generally speaking, they said a terrorist can look like anyone."

The children learned about the attack in two different ways. The younger kids learned mostly from their parents. The older kids learned mostly from TV. In a number of cases, the older adolescents watched the events unfold on television while still at school.

Walker says the lesson in that is parents can't shield their kids from disturbing news. They are going to find out anyway.

"We should not pretend that they don't know what's going on, even very young children," she said. "In our effort to protect them, we can't keep them in the dark. We need to make sure they have some understanding, and give them the opportunity to express themselves."

The 60 children she studied in Ohio may not be typical. No effort was made to represent them as a microcosm of the nation as a whole, but their words are worth hearing. Here's a few more:

"I felt scared. I was only in the third grade and I thought maybe we were going to die, but I wasn't sure," a 10-year-old girl said.

"I felt odd that terrorism could be something so huge. And I guess that, you know, America's not invincible," a boy, 16, said.

"How could this happen? What did we do to have this happen," a 12-year-old boy said.

"I wish war would end," a 7-year-old girl said.

And this, from a 10-year-old boy:

"I forget why they did it. Our freedom, they are mad because we are free."

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