Chicago children react to 9/11

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
September 2001

It is noon Friday. Thirty-six little heads are bowed in honor of the victims of Tuesday’s tragedy.

Many of them have miniature American flags perched on their desks. These children-many of whom don’t yet like members of the opposite sex in that way-cling onto each other’s hands in solidarity.

They are fifth graders at Arthur Dixon Elementary School on the South Side. Bright and articulate, they are acutely aware of this week’s events. They speak as knowledgeably about the terrorists as they do about pint-sized rap star Lil Bow Wow. They speak candidly about their fears of an impending war. They read the newspaper and watch the news at home with their family.

Some worry about relatives and family friends who are in the military. Others have loved ones on the East Coast who still are unaccounted for.

“I’m still kind of scared,” says Jason Porter, 10. “My godsister and aunt live in New York. My aunt works in the World Trade Center. We called them four times to see if they’re OK, but nobody answered. We haven’t heard back from them. I hope they’re OK.” The classroom is quiet.

The walls are covered with words expressing the children’s feelings:  confusion, helpless, upset, sick, shattered, mad,  nervous, worried.  Nearby are responses to some of those fears: stay calm, give money, give blood, be an organ donor, hope, pray, stay strong, fly flag.

One by one, the children offer their thoughts, expressing shock, anger and heartache. Here’s what they had to say:

“I feel kind of scared because I think there is going to be another war. I worry about my brother because he’s 19 and he may have to fight then.” Devon Freeny, 10.

“I was scared and nervous when I found out what happened. I thought they might start bombing schools.” Donald Jackson, 10.

“I felt sad. I wondered whether they would get the person who did this to us.” Lauren Simmons, 11.

“I’m not sure whey these people did this but I think it was to get back at America.” Kristina Cross, 10.

“I saw on TV how the plane crashed and the buildings caught on fire. It was scary.” Rachel Bradley, 11.

“I have a cousin who lives in New York. If he hadn’t been sick, he would’ve been in one of those buildings. I’m glad he was sick.” Courtney Lane, 10.

“My family was just in D.C. in August for a family reunion and if we had had it later, we might have been hurt, too.” Monique Brown, 10.

“I saw a movie where a building blew up and this is what it looked like. My mom explained to me what had happened and then my auntie called and we talked about it, too. I felt bad for the people who died.” Bryan Randle, 11.

“I don’t want us to be in a war.” Jordan Listenbee, 10.

“I was scared because I don’t know what will happen now.” Deonte Richardson, 11.

“It’s not right for people to do things like this to anyone.” Kayla Tabb, 10.

“I was angry because I wanted to know why they would want to do this to America.” Antonio King, 10.

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