Schoolchildren Get ‘Trivia Questions’ About 9/11 Attack
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
An activity book for children about the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks being distributed to schools with funding from Keyspan, North Fork Bank, and the law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges contains pages of “trivia questions” and math problems about the attack.
The booklet, funded in part by an event involving Olympic silver medal winner Nancy Kerrigan, is intended to make for “a happy 9/11 commemorative event,” said Tara Modlin, the founder of the organization distributing it, Stars, Stripes & Skates.”To teach kids about an event so morbid, we needed to make something fun for them,” she said.
But the pamphlet is already drawing criticism from at least one victim’s family member. Monica Iken, a former elementary school teacher whose husband died in the World Trade Center attacks, called the booklets inappropriate. “It doesn’t make sense to me to have young children doing math equations 9/11 related,” she said. “Education is for history and telling the story that is appropriate about heroes and the day, not doing activities unless they are healing activities, and not sitting around doing a booklet.”
Stars, Stripes & Skates, an organization that hosts an annual ice-skating fund-raiser that commemorates the September 11 attacks, is currently distributing 10,000 booklets, which include math equations involving the numbers nine and 11, a connect-the-dot exercise that shows New York’s old skyline, a word search for keywords such as “Osama bin Laden,” “Twin Towers,” and “Taliban,” and various “trivia questions.” The booklets are being delivered to schools and ice rinks across the Northeast.
In the clues for the “word search,” Mayor Giuliani’s name is misspelled.
Ms. Modlin said her main goal was to use “child-friendly articles” to inspire children to ask questions of their parents and guardians about September 11th. “It’s a tough word, Osama bin Laden,” she said. “We don’t define it so kids can ask their parents who that is.” She said if her child asked her who Osama bin Laden is, she would say, “That’s a really bad man who did bad things to others.”
The money for the books came from a fund-raiser attended by Ms. Kerrigan and 12 other Olympic ice skaters. It raised about $200,000, which was originally intended to help individuals find missing family members. As more victims were removed from missing lists and reported dead, Ms. Modlin had to find a different outlet for the money.
Once the activity book was approved, she and other committee members, some of whom are teachers, wrote the questions and activities in the booklets by using information gathered from the Internet and accounts from people present on the day of the attacks.
Some of the sentences that contain keywords for the word search activity are, “The United States began its actions in Afghanistan without knowing precisely where Osama Bin Laden was,” “At the time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan,” and “Osama Bin Laden ordered the attacks on September 11th.” Ms. Modlin said when she and other committee members were creating the booklet they “stayed away from politics 100%.”
The math trivia section includes equations that show “relationships” between “the mystery number 11” and the attacks, such as “9/11, 9+1+1 =,” which children should find equals 11.
Some financial backers of Stars Stripes and Skates said the activity booklets achieve Ms. Modlin’s original goal of increasing curiosity among children and sustaining dialogue about the September 11 attacks.
“The more people talk about it, the longer people will remember it,” the owner of Gramercy Park Flower Shop, Tom Sakas, said. He said his children have filled out the activity booklets and “basically kind of remember what had happened because they were young” and ask him questions such as, “Why do people do this?”
Attorney Charlene Verkowitz who also sponsors Stars Stripes and Skates, called the booklets “fine and appropriate.”
Other sponsors include Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, Danskin, Keyspan, and North Fork Bank.
One member of a disbanded group of families affected by September 11th, Charles Wolf, said any effort that keeps people talking does more good than harm.
“It’s nice what they’re doing,” he said. He believes that September 11th is “yesterday’s news” for many people. “For those kids that have no concept of what it is, it’s a great idea.”