published Friday, May 6th, 2011

Teachers try to put bin Laden killing in perspective for pupils

NORCROSS, Ga.—It was a day of infamy they don’t remember.

Sixth-graders in Jacob Cole’s social studies class relived the terror of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks this week in a lesson intended to help them understand what the death of Osama bin Laden means.

The students at Ivy Preparatory Academy charter school near Atlanta covered their faces as they watched the images of jets flying into the World Trade Center. The voices of frightened newscasters and terrified onlookers brought them to tears. A photo of Osama bin Laden evoked gasps.

Cole designed the lesson to help the students understand why some Americans were celebrating in the streets for the violent death of a man on the other side of the world.

“I totally think he deserved to die,” student Colby DeWindt said. “He killed a lot of people, but I agree we shouldn’t celebrate someone’s death.”

Teachers in classrooms across the country this week have been trying to answer questions delicately and explain the significance of bin Laden’s death to a generation of students that have grown up with faint or no memories of Sept. 11, 2001. Many had questions about why the United States had been attacked. Some were scared of retaliation.

“If there were a terrorist attack right now, I probably would move away and get weapons,” Samantha Maldonado, a student in Cole’s class, wrote in one assignment.

On Thursday, a White House official led students through an online presentation about 9/11 and the operation to find Osama bin Laden. Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, showed images of firefighters raising a U.S. flag after the attacks; bin Laden and the compound where he was living; and a picture of President Barack Obama and other officials, tensely monitoring the operation in Pakistan.

“I can tell you it was a very, very tense and nervous experience for all of us,” Rhodes said.

The students sent in questions like: How would bin Laden’s death affect the terrorism threat against the United States? Why weren’t photographs released?

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