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Kids of 9/11 get a voice as 10th anniversary looms

As the United States prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with an onslaught of TV specials, children are finally being given a voice and a chance to ask pressing questions.
/ Source: Reuters

Lucas Brody was just 10 years-old when he watched the Twin Towers fall to the ground one block from his New York home on September 11, 2001; Caitlin Langone was 12 when her police officer dad died that day trying to rescue people from the scene.

Millions of other children in the United States were not born in 2001, or were too young to remember — still less comprehend — the traumatic events of September11.

But as the United States prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with an onslaught of TV specials, children are finally being given a voice and a chance to ask pressing questions.

"It's a story that is not often heard — 9/11 from a children's perspective. It tends to have been overlooked," said Janice Sutherland, producer of "Children of 9/11", to be broadcast on NBC on September 5.

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Dozens of other TV documentaries, interviews and looks back at the attacks deal with everything from the recollections of then-President George W. Bush to the ongoing health problems of Ground Zero rescue workers, the hunt for Islamic militants and even how dogs helped victims recover from the catastrophe.

"Children of 9/11" follows a year in the lives of 11 kids who lost parents in the attacks on New York, Washington D.C, and in Flight 93 that was forced down in Pennsylvania.

In another program at youth-oriented channel Nickelodeon, award-winning journalist Linda Ellerbee lays out the facts for 6-14 year-olds who don't have first-hand recollections in the Nick News special "What Happened?: The Story of September 11 2001" airing on Thursday.

Many adults still find it too painful to relive that day and its graphic TV news footage. But Ellerbee, 66, said the "noise around the 9/11 anniversary is going to be too loud for kids to ignore — and they'll get a lot of misinformation."

'Ignorance is not bliss'
"I believe we needed to put together a show explaining in simple clear terms just what happened on that day, what happened next and how people felt about what happened," Ellerbee said. "Ignorance is not bliss; ignorance is dangerous."

In a third program, ABC News will report on the lives of the Florida children to whom Bush was speaking when he got news of the attacks.

According to a study carried out for Nickelodeon by the Harrison Group and Harvest Research, 92 percent of kids as young as 8-11 are aware of the importance of 9/11. But their information is sometimes wildly at odds with the facts.

"I heard that on 9/11, 500 planes disappeared into the air," one young girl told Nick News. Others thought the Islamic militant hijackers were Hindus, or came from Japan.

The Nick News show, airing on September 1, does not show film of the hijacked planes smashing into the World Trade Center but it advises youngsters to watch with a parent. Educational and other materials are available online in partnership with the American Psychological Association.

"Children of 9/11" producer Sutherland said she was used to hearing adults talking losing children, but not the reverse.

Image: Caitlin Langone
Caitlin Langone is pictured in this 2011 publicity photograph released August 30, 2011. Langone is one of the persons featured in the new NBC documentary \"Children of 9/11\" set for broadcast September 5, 2011. Langone was 12-years-old when her police officer dad died that day trying to rescue people from the scene of the World Trade Center. REUTERS/NBC/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT DISASTER) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO COMMERCIAL USEX80001

"Most of them felt an incredible sense of responsibility for the surviving parent, and a fear of what would happen if they lost that parent...It is something they have had to deal with on their own." she said.

Caitlin Langone, now 22, was in school when a teacher told her class about the attacks. Like many of the children in the new shows, she had no idea that her father was involved.

Until taking part in "Children of 9/11," Langone said she had never seen her experiences reflected in the public domain.

"I felt this documentary was my opportunity to tell my story in my own words. I hope it gives people a better understanding. I hope it makes 9/11 more personal and more real for them," Langone said.

Both the NBC and Nick News programs have a hopeful message. Sutherland said "Children of 9/11" is ultimately life-affirming because it shows children at their most resilient.

The Nick News special recalls the efforts of firefighters, and rescue workers, and reminds children of the unity that swept the United States in the weeks immediately after 9/11.

And it features the message "We will survive".