They stood only about 4 feet high, all dressed in khakis, jeans, and red T-shirts. They were a splash of bright color, toothless smiles, and hope on a day of sadness and grief. They are the 2nd graders who wrote "September 12: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right."
Teacher Darlene Robertson's former first-grade class visited the NASDAQ stock market in midtown Manhattan in New York for the anniversary of September 11. The youngsters read their book aloud and were part of the group that opened the market for trading at 11 a.m. It was the last major stop on a three-day whirl-wind visit to New York. They also visited the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, the Toys R Us flagship store, and the New York Public Library. They were interviewed on NBC's Today Show and treated to stories, lunch, and videos at Scholastic's downtown headquarters. Scholastic is the book's publisher.
The group flew home on Wednesday to be part of their own memorial ceremonies at Masterson Elementary. For many of the children, New York City was their first experience with an urban landscape. Kennett is two hours from Memphis, Tennessee, the closest city.
Hope from the Heartland
The 18 children were in the first grade on September 11, 2001. They went home to see horrifying, unbelievable images on the TVs in their living rooms. They woke up the next day and went to school, where their teacher greeted them with a smile.
"I felt better when I saw my teacher smiling at the door," said young author Anna Kay Hilburn. "We came to school like always and it made us feel good."
With the help of their teacher, the children in Ms. Robertson's class told the story of the day after in their own words. They also provided all the art work.
"We came to school like always, we had recess like always. It was like nothing changed," said Cameron Harper. "It made me feel better."
Another young author, Onterria Carter, was asked about her favorite part of the book.
"I liked the part where we sat on the carpet like we do everyday and our teacher told us what happened," Onterria said. "She told us everything was going to be OK."
The book begins with the tragedy of September 11. The following pages, however, concentrate on the next day: "September 12 was a new day. We knew everything would be all right, because…. the sun came up and the birds started to sing again."
The book ends with the sun coming up yet again on the next day. The last page is a strong reminder of the book's message: "NOT the End," it reads.
"We were trying to make everyone feel better," Anna told Scholastic News Online. "It's a wonderful book. I really like the pictures. We wanted to make people feel better."