Most kids today don’t have first-hand recollections of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, because they were too young, or weren’t born yet. For many of them, there is confusion about what happened, and why. As the 10th anniversary of the attacks approaches, Nick News with Linda Ellerbee will give kids their own forum to talk about the events of that day, address some of their misconceptions and answer their questions, in “What Happened?: The Story of September 11, 2001,” premiering Thursday, Sept. 1, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon. The special will air commercial-free and is being complemented with an online discussion guide for parents, educators and caregivers, specially created through a partnership between Nickelodeon and the American Psychological Association (APA).
As a complement to the special, and to help parents, educators and caregivers talk to kids about the difficult emotions and feelings that may arise as attention to the anniversary grows, Nickelodeon has partnered with the APA to create a discussion guide to help address 9/11 with kids ages 6 to 14 in a factual and sensitive manner. Written by Robin H. Gurwitch, PhD, a Professor and Program Coordinator of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on behalf of the APA, the resource will give parents and educators tips on: recognizing a child’s worries or other anxieties in reaction to 9/11; recognizing what is normal in terms of such worries; and how to help children cope. The guide will be available on TheBigHelp.com, Nick’s prosocial online hub; Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect.com, the network’s online resource for parenting advice and community; the APA’s homepage (www.apa.org). The APA has also invited its members to host screenings and share the curriculum materials with parents and educators in their local communities.
According to original Nickelodeon research on the significance of 9/11 to the Millennial generation (ages 8-27), 92% of kids as young as ages 8-11 are aware of the importance of that day’s events. However, as Ellerbee and Nick News learned from kids they spoke to, there are varying ideas and beliefs about what actually transpired: “I heard that on 9/11, 500 planes disappeared into the air”; I think they might have smuggled bombs into the planes”; and “I heard some people say they think 9/11 never happened.”
To help address these misconceptions, “What Happened?: The Story of September 11, 2001,” tells the story of that day and features first-hand accounts from young adults who were kids at the time, including: Lucas, 10 years old when he watched the Towers fall, one block away from his home; Magee, 11 when she ran from debris and was evacuated from her home five blocks away from the World Trade Center; Alexis, 7 when her father, a NYFD paramedic, was one of the first responders; Sarah, 14 when her sister was a passenger on hijacked United Airlines Flight 93; and Jaimie, 7 years old when he was in the second-grade classroom where President Bush was first told of the attacks.
Nick News also assembles experts to take on kids’ questions about 9/11 and its aftermath. Tackling kids’ queries about who was responsible and their motives, sentiment toward Muslims in America since the attacks and the significance of Osama Bin Laden’s death, among others, are: Aaron Brown, principle anchor for CNN’s original Sept. 11, 2001, coverage; Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary under President George Bush; Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security; Tom Kean, Chairman of the 9/11 Commission; Akbar Ahmed, American University’s Chair of Islamic Studies; and Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University Professor and author of Inside Terrorism.
As the show’s coda, Nick News has created a montage of cards and letters written by kids following the 2001 attacks, displaying, as Ellerbee notes, “under the most horrific circumstances, the triumph of the human spirit.” In 2001, Nick News aired a 9/11 special report and PSA in which Ellerbee asked kids to write letters of thanks and support to firefighters, police and rescue workers at Ground Zero, and Nickelodeon would deliver them. The network was inundated with letters from kids across the country, and more than 40,000 letters ultimately arrived and were distributed.