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Nickelodeon's Nick News Looks At 9/11 From A Kid's Perspective


It's easy for us to forget how young our children might have been ten short years ago. But for children under the age of 16 (or perhaps even older) the events of September 11, 2001 might have taken place before they were born, or they may be strange images from a frightful day that have never been fully explained.


Nick News With Linda Ellerbee has won dozens of awards for the program's ability to teach about difficult and timely subjects while at the same time never "talking down" to its young audience. When I received the media kit for their latest production, titled What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001, I was especially excited to see how the veteran journalist and her team would handle this sensitive topic.


The half-hour program begins with Linda explaining that they will not be showing the most horrific images from that fateful day. In fact, the program includes only a couple of shots of the buildings actually burning and collapsing. The moment of impact of the plane and the tower is shown in animation. These editorial decisions help to make this a program that will be able to focus on delivering information, and it won't distract its young audience with potentially horrifying video that may be interpreted as overly frightening or, even worse, entertaining.


Also providing an interesting perspective to why such a program is even needed, a montage of children and young teens state what they think are facts about that day. "I heard that on 9/11, 500 planes disappeared into the air," says one. "I think they might have smuggled bombs into the planes," wonders another, while yet one more says he has heard some people say, "9/11 never happened."


Linda reassures viewers that none of these "facts" are true, while at the same time repeatedly reminding her young audience that even though this was a tragedy on a scale never seen in the U.S. before, it could have been much worse. Thousands were killed in New York City, yet tens of thousands occupied the WTC every working day. An even greater ratio existed at the Pentagon. And relative to the number of planes that fly over America, the few that were involved in the attacks support the fact that flying is still a very safe way to travel.


Interwoven between statistics and descriptions of the event are four stories from young adults who were mere children that day. Lucas Brody, home from school, watched the towers fall just one block away. Lila Abramson, whose school was five blocks away from what is now referred to as Ground Zero, recalls the face of a fireman who carried her to safety. Sarah Wainio, from Baltimore MD, holds an even more poignant memory. Her sister was a passenger on Flight 93, the plane that crashed into an empty filed after brave passengers took control of the situation.


Selecting people who experienced that day first hand while at the same age as the audience this program is intended for creates a very effective link from past to present. Another section of the program recalls some of the tens of thousands of letters that were sent to rescue workers and demonstrates how Americans rallied together to help and care for one another.


With the tenth anniversary of this tragedy approaching, children and teens are bound to have questions. News reports will intensify and the nation's focus will once again be shifted back in time to recall that day's events, probably the most documented disaster recorded as it happened in real time. Personally, just watching this excellent program pulled at those emotions I felt so strongly that day. I highly recommend parents take the time to view What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001 on Nickelodeon on Thursday, September 1 at 9 PM (ET/PT).


(For those who can't view this program at its broadcast time, it will be made available afterwards on iTunes as a free podcast. It will also be in Nickelodeon's VOD offerings for the month of September.)

Rod Gustafson


Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.

Parenting and the Media by Rod Gustafson

The Parents Television Council - www.parentstv.org

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