Children Speak About the Attacks

As citizens everywhere struggle comprehend Tuesday's massive tragedies, children can find it especially hard to understand. What can parents do to explain and reassure them of their safety?

"Those two guys, I heard that they hijacked the planes and took those people out of the planes and killed them because they hate the United States," said a freckled boy in the fourth grade at Washington Irving Intermediate School in Tarrytown, N.Y., 20 miles up the Hudson River from New York City.

Many of the children at the Tarrytown school have parents who work in the city's financial district. While the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon hit close to home for students in the New York and Washington areas, children across the country are struggling to deal with the complex situation as the school year gets under way. They are facing many of the same questions, confusion and emotions as the children in Tarrytown.

"Someone in the plane wanted to kill a certain person," said one fourth-grade girl at the Tarrytown school. "They couldn't just kill one person, so he said 'I'd rather kill myself and kill everybody.'"

The fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Stevenson, encouraged all her students to share their thoughts about the disaster. "We need to talk about it," she told them. "We can't pretend it didn't happen."

She had her class sit in a circle and pass a ball, giving each child the opportunity to speak. Stevenson wrote down a list of some of the key emotions that were mentioned, which included "panic," "blame," "afraid," and "felt bad."

'Where's My Mom?'

While so many children are confused by the details of the disaster, most are also consumed by emotion. They talk of fear, anger and mostly sadness.

"I just burst out into tears, because, I mean, it was horrible," said one youngster in a plaid dress.

While some students expressed disappointment that their favorite TV shows were not being broadcast, others recognized the gravity of the day's events.

"Just thinking about it, my legs are trembling and stuff," said an older student. The children are like, 'Where's my Mom or Mommy? Where's my Dad? … Are they trapped inside the building or are they alive?'"

One child who had seen footage of people leaping from the World Trade Center said, "I felt really mad when the people threw themselves from the top floor."

For another youngster, it was some of the reaction in the Middle East that was disturbing. "I saw the news and I saw people celebrating back in their country because they're enemies of the U.S. … I was very, very mad and my dad was very mad too."

Parents Respond

It can be hard for parents to answer all of their children's questions.

Jill Brodkowitz of Potomac, Md. said she is trying to tell her 5½-year-old son as little as possible. "I've explained to him that it's not a common thing … that somebody who was very angry was on the airplane."

Heeding the advice of many parenting experts, Brodkowitz said she will not watch television when her son is around. Brodkowitz has two other children, ages 3 and 1, but they are too young to understand the news, she said.

Lisa Cantor, whose 10-year-old son is trying to make sense of the attack, believes that being truthful and forthcoming with information is best.

"I try to tell him as much as I can, because if I don't tell him, they'll talk about it in school," she said, adding that she worries that his classmates may confuse reality with fantasy.

"There are terrorist groups who don't like America," she explained to him. "Not every country is like ours."

She added, "I want him to sympathize and to understand that people lost people that they love. I want him to understand humanity from this."

Cantor said she called her own father for help in understanding the attacks and what they mean for the country. "I'm 35 years old and I can hardly deal with it," she said.

ABCNEWS' Rebecca Raphael contributed to this report.

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