A photo of Osama bin Laden and a diagram
of his network were on display at a recent press conference
in Charleston, South Carolina. The press conference was held
by family members of victims of the September 11 attacks.
The families are filing a lawsuit against officials in Saudi Arabia
and institutions charging them with helping bin Laden finance
his terrorist activities. (Photo: Lawrence Jackson/AP WideWorld)
Focus on the Children of 9/11
Living without her husband, John, isn't
easy for Mary Ellen Salamone. But it's even harder for their
three children, Alex, 5, Aidan, 4, and Anna 3.
"They have their good days and their bad days," said Salamone,
who lost her husband in the World Trade Center attack. "But
the road they face won't be easy. They're completely helpless,
and the hardest part is seeing the pain in their eyes every
Salamone said she worries that on the anniversary of September
11, her children will have to relive the loss of their father
over and over, especially at school. "You walk into schools,
and you see posters of the Twin Towers burning, hanging on
the walls," she said. "It's absolutely horrific for any child
who lost a loved one."
She works with Families of September 11, an organization founded
by victims' family members, to protect children from these
painful memories. "We want teachers and schools to be aware
that our children are still grieving," she said. "We want
schools to emphasize the positive things that happened that
day, and how people helped one another. They can't just dwell
on the horror of it."
Hundreds of charities and organizations are trying to make
life easier for the more than 3,000 children who lost loved
ones on September 11, and not just in schools. They're offering
everything from free camping trips to free dance lessons to
free counseling, and it's help they really need.
Kelly Hughes directs the Comfort Zone Camp, which specializes
in helping children who have lost loved ones. "Children grieve
differently than adults," Hughes said. "Sometimes they try
to be adults and hide their feelings, but they need special
attention. We give them a chance to talk about how they feel
with other children who are going through the same thing."
Sometimes, however, charities can't help all the children they'd
like to. The Ted Thomas Dance Foundation in New York City
offered free dance lessons to victims' children, but only
four actually participated.
"I had to turn away hundreds of children because they were
not eligible," said Ted Thomas. "We could only accept children
whose mother or father had died. But there were so many more
children who had been affected and needed our help. We just
couldn't help them all."
Even children who did not lose a parent or family member on
September 11 need help. A recent study found that 90 percent
of all New York City school kids still need counseling to
deal with the events of September 11. Now, some New York politicians
want the President to create an Office for the Protection
of Children to address the special needs of children.
"We have to recognize it as a public health challenge," said
New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
When Monica Gabrielle heard that terrorists
had attacked the World Trade Center, she desperately tried to reach
her husband, Richard. He was an insurance broker who worked in the
south tower. At first, she thought he had survived. "A co-worker
said he saw Richard outside the building," she said. "But we never
heard from him again. Every day I wake up wondering what happened
A year later, Gabrielle and her 24-year-old daughter still have
trouble coping without him. They are not even sure they will attend
a one-year anniversary ceremony to honor those who died on September
11. Monica said she doesn't think she'll have the strength to attend.
"We'll wait for the day and see what happens," she says.
Many of the families of 9/11 still struggle daily with their losses,
both emotional and financial. Grieving family members like Monica
have many places to turn to for help, whether they need financial
assistance, counseling, or just a day to relax and have some fun.
But some family members said that although they appreciate the help,
nothing can ease their suffering.
"I'm up and functioning again, finally," said 30-year-old Christina
Regenhard who lost her brother in the attacks. "But this is a pain
that does not go away."
Charities do what they can to make the lives of family members a
little easier. Some like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the
Twin Towers Fund, and Windows of Hope, help families cover everyday
expenses. Others like Safe Horizons, Project Reach, and Project Liberty
provide emotional support and counseling. Some charities like Adam's
Angels offer families free tickets for trips or sporting events.
Families can get the largest amount of financial assistance through
the U.S. government's Victim Compensation Fund. Although some families
could be awarded millions of dollars, many have decided not to apply
for help. That's because they must promise not to sue the airline
industry to get money from the fund.
Monica says that's why she will not apply for an award. "It's hush
money," she said. "We want answers from the government about what
really happened. Sometimes you have to be able to take people to
court to find out the truth."
Monica and many others like her have decided to turn their grief
into political action. Families have founded groups like the Families
of September 11, the WTC United Family Group, and the Pentagon Angels.
While these groups offer support, they also give families a political
voice in many things from planning memorials to improving airline
Monica helped found the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, which has asked
President Bush to appoint an independent commission to investigate
the attacks. The campaign also wants the commission to recommend
ways to build stronger skyscrapers so they can withstand future
"We have to prevent something like this from ever happening again,"
says Monica. "This is an opportunity for us. And how we use this
opportunity says a lot about who we are and what we value."
Do you think these kids are heroes? To nominate a hero into our
Hall of Heroes, click here