Preparing to Discuss 9-11


I've been watching the 9-11 series on National Geographic, some with some of my children, some just Mike and me. Watching. Thinking. Remembering.

This is history. Truly "living history" in every sense of the word. Some of my children remember. Patrick was assigned an essay about a fear for a composition class this week. he didn't hesitate a minute before deciding on a topic.  He is afraid to fly. He does it–he has flown to Spain and to the Netherlands and to Brazil and back and forth to Florida and countless other places in the last year. But he's still a 5-year-old who flew homemade airplanes in Lego skyscrapers for many September days on end. He is still afraid to fly.

He has siblings who didn't live it. We'll gather those wee ones and we will tell. We will read stories. Here are some of the ones in our collection. Do you have some to share as well? It's not yet too late to fill our book baskets.

Little chapel

A few years ago, my mother attended a book signing by author A. B. Curtis. She bought a book for my children and mailed it to them. I have to admit I was skeptical of a children's book about the tragedy of September 11, 2001. How do you capture the horror in rhyming verse and whimsical pictures? You don't. Instead, Ms. Curtis tells the story of St. Paul's church, an historical church that stands fewer than 100 yards from where the towers stood. The chapel became a refuge and launching point for the rescuers who were on the scene. Every time I read the book tears well in my eyes at the thought of the fireman who hung their shoes on the chapel fence before they went into the towers:

Oh what gallant men did we lose

Who never came back to get their shoes!

The book is a gentle re-telling. Our children are surrounded every day by references to the horror that forever changed our world. They will ask what "9/11" means and they surely deserve to be answered. But, they should not see that footage and they should not be bombarded with remembrances more appropriate for grief-stricken, terrorized adults. Childhood is all too brief. Very soon, they will be old enough to learn the details of the day. For now, this book tells them a story of hope amidst the charred ruins. A story we all need to hear.

You can read the entire book and see the pictures here. But get the book. Really. It's worth holding in your lap.


Fireboat is a whimsically illustrated children's book that tells the story of John J. Harvey, a fireboat that witnessed the growth of New York city throughout the 20th century. There are lots of intersting little things to learn about culture and about fireboats. It's a gentle, happy picture book. Then, the book takes an abrupt turn and becomes stark when the author reaches September 11, 2001. She focuses onthe heroes and not on the violence, but this is still a very realistic book and the whimsy evaporates into the bright blue sky, just as it did that Septmember day. It's a good read and it's  story that somehow sticks with us long after the covers of the book are closed. I strongly suggest parents preview it–you might you want to use it with children older than the typical picture book age.  To extend the conversation, you might visit the John J. Harvey website or take a peek at the study guide for the book.

America the beautiful

It's not technically a 9/11 book, but I love to read (sing) Wendell Minor's inllustrated version of America the Beautiful. On the page where we sing, "Thine alabaster cities gleam/Undimmed by human tears" Minor has painted a picture of the fallen tower site with the towering lights gleaming upwards to commemorate the loss. It's an image that just fits that particular place in the song written so long before the event. And this book, this song, these words–they do so much to heal hearts and remind us of the blessings of this great country.


  1. Cindy says

    Bummer – just went on Amazon to buy the Little Chapel the Stood book and it says it will ship in 1-3 months. Guess I’ll have to use the online resource this year and get the book to have in our library for next year.
    Wonderful ideas Elizabeth, and Candace!

  2. says

    We checked this book out from the library recently It is a beautiful children’s story about overcoming fears. It is certainly appropriate for even the youngest children, but it could also be used as a launching pad for discussions of fear with older children. Your post reminded me of this because it shows it was written on September 12, 2001, adding a deeper level of appreciation for the book’s themes.

  3. Patty says

    My daughter was born the day before 9/11, so our feelings get all mixed up at this time of year. Thanks for all the recommendations.

  4. says

    I know every child is different in what s/he can handle, but do you mind sharing what age children you’ll be sharing the books with? I can’t help it, I just like to know what is a common age range to even consider talking about this with. Thanks!

  5. says

    My husband survived the attacks; he was on teh 68th floor of Tower one when it was hit and escaped within 11 minutes of its collapse. So, this tragedy is woven deeply into our family history; it happened the day before our oldest;s fifth birthday and our baby was not quite two. Let me know if you would like links to our writings on the subject; my husband also is preparing a tenth-year essay on life after Sept. 11.
    God is good.

  6. Janice says

    Elizabeth, would you have any reading recommendations that would be suitable for my 16 year old son? For part of our social studies this year he requested to learn more about 9/11, the events leading up to it, and how it has shaped our word since. I am a little overwhelmed by all the material that is available, so I would love some recommendations from “a trusted source” :) if you have any. Thanks so much.
    Janice in Canada

  7. jen says

    I have found myself unusually weepy whenever something comes on TV or radio about9/11 this year. I don’t quite understand it.

  8. Cindy says

    Tried to put this up last night, but I guess my phone rebelled. :) Just wanted to update you that Amazon sent me an email the other day saying, “Surprise! We got an early shipment of The Little Chapel book and it’s on it’s way to you!” It showed up on our doorstep yesterday and we are ready to go. Thanks again for the recommendations.

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