A book of hope: children's reflections on Sept. 11

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One month before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, America is struggling with how to memorialize that day. For many the memorial began when the air was still cloudy with smoke.

In those early weeks, Shelley Harwayne, superintendent of New York City School District No. 2, collected stories and pictures created by students around the city.

With the help of the NYC Board of Education, she put together "Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11, 2001," published earlier this month.

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The book serves as "a great big thank you to all the teachers who had their children write to our children," Ms. Harwayne says.

It is also a window into the hearts and minds of some of the children most directly affected by the attacks. "I think in some respects, although [the book] could be jolting, it can be healing in the end," she says.

The collection features works from children in every grade from kindergarten through high school. Its seven chapters include descriptions of the day, tributes to rescue workers, and a section of letters written to New York students from around the country.

Charles, a 10th-grade student in Manhattan, writes, "Hope is that source of strength, that feeling that gets you through the day.... It's what helps us overcome the obstacles that we face."

This is a compelling theme, Harwayne says. "Even the art lets you believe that in the end, hope is the children's message."

She hopes that on Sept. 11 this year, teachers will read selections of the book aloud to their classes.

The publisher, Heinemann, donated time and resources to the book. All profits from its sale will go to the Fund for Public Schools, NYC, and are earmarked to help children who lost a parent in the attack or were forced to evacuate their school.

The book can be purchased through Heinemann's website at www.heinemann.com.

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