NEW YORK — Ten years have passed, but the events of Sept. 11, 2001 are with us still. We are a nation at war. We are striving to shape the best responses to continued threats. We want to honor the victims of that dreadful day and the sacrifices of our military.
“This anniversary is probably unprecedented in the number of activities memorializing the day,“ says Kevin Rozario, an American studies professor at Smith College and author of “The Culture of Calamity: Disaster and the Making of Modern America” (University of Chicago Press, 2007).
Nationwide, events as varied as the complex issues left in the wake of the attacks are planned, from concerts to prayer services to special museum exhibits. Moreover, 1 million Americans are expected to volunteer this weekend as part of an effort launched in 2002 to spread good after this disaster.
For many children, the anniversary will mark their first exposure to the events that happened in 2001. For parents and families, experts stress that this is an opportunity to help them understand this chapter of modern history without invoking fear.
Here is a look at how you can uncover what’s happening in your area and around the country, and some guidance on how you, your children, family and friends can participate in this important anniversary.
Many of the commemorative events are large-scale, involving commissioned artwork or exhibits of artifacts. The Mental Health Association of New York City created a website that lists anniversary events happening across the country. Visit www.9-11healingandremembrance.org for more info.
Local organizations everywhere have organized their own events, big and small. “We’ve heard anecdotally of many local [fire departments] teaming up with municipal governments and other local groups to prepare events,” says Tim Burn, spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters.
These efforts, sometimes honoring area military personnel or first responders, are announced through local channels, like your newspaper or municipal websites, adds Burns.
The tragedy of Sept. 11 immediately spurred positive acts all around the country, with volunteerism expected to peak the weekend of September 11 this year.
“The families of September 11 decided that service would be a way for Americans to honor those who were lost,” explains Sandy Scott, spokeswoman for The Corporation for National & Community Service. “A law was passed in 2009 recognizing Sept. 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance,” he says, and a concentrated effort to organize volunteers has been underway for this year in particular.
During the week preceding the anniversary, says Scott, opportunities will be continually added to the website, www.serve.gov/sept11. For those interested in volunteering throughout the year, that site, as well as www.911Day.org, provides ideas searchable by ZIP code, adds Scott.
The New Generation
Parents play an important role in helping their children comprehend and adjust to the events of Sept. 11, says Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychology and social behavior at University of California-Irvine, who has researched the impact of this specific disaster on children.
“I think the most important thing that parents can do on the tenth anniversary is to protect their children from repeated graphic images of the Sept. 11 attacks,” advises Cohen Silver.
In addition to staying away from these images, “It’s important for children to understand that the events happened in the past and that they are not happening again now,” she says. “It’s important for children to feel safe and to understand that their parents will do everything they can to protect them.”
A volunteer group called the 4 Action Initiative – composed of families of Sept. 11, the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education and the Liberty Science Center – developed a new school curriculum guide to Sept. 11. This curriculum also stresses that exposure to graphic images isn’t appropriate for any grade level. And, it advises: “Students K through third grade are too young to comprehend the concepts of terrorism. Focus on lessons about helping others and forging positive relationships.”
Some ideas for positive family activities are listed at www.911day.org, such as helping clean up a neighborhood playground or collecting toys and books to donate to a local shelter.
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