Children have always had a knack for seeing the world in ways that adults miss. Their vocabulary might not be as sophisticated, but they frequently speak with a clarity well beyond their years.
Last week, to help cope with the tragedy of Sept. 11, numerous schools invited students to put their thoughts about the events on paper. The result was a rush of raw emotions, questions, fears, hope and creative suggestions, as expressed through poems, journal entries and letters to President Bush. Below are excerpts from the writings of students at five area schools:
"Momma's on the phone talking to everybody that she knows. There are scribbles crawling around my head. I have never said this, but they say hell is bad. Well, this is hell. I am living in tragic detail. ... I pray, but I don't. HELP ME. I love my family, but I love the world. I believe Anne Frank: In every way people are good at heart. ... I know it will come around, but when?"
--Hannah Tehrani, sixth grade, Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School, Los Angeles
"T for Terrorism: I was getting ready for school when my father called my mother to tell her about it from his cell phone on his way to work. I heard my mother sob suddenly. ... Right after that she apologized to us if she had scared us and told us about what bad and evil people had done and that we were safe and she would make sure that we stayed that way. Then we all sat on my brother's bed and said prayers for all of the people who were dying and for President Bush, that he would make smart choices. ... Even though I watch a lot of gory and bloody movies, I really never knew that people could ever do such bad things in real life."
--John August Roberts, fourth grade, Marengo School, South Pasadena
"Dear President Bush, We think we should build the twin towers higher so the people know that we will not give up."
--Jade Read, Emily Newman, Olivia Reininger, fourth grade, St. Matthew's Parish School, Pacific Palisades
"Dear Mr. Bush, You have a lot of big decisions, and I thought I could help you out. I think you might want to make the World Trade Center shorter, stronger and wider. Also, you could have better emergency exits, such as a slide fire escape, something like that. Well, that's all."
--Caty Welch, fourth grade, St. Matthew's Parish School
"Dear Mr. President, Please don't send a military response. The terrorists can respond, and back and forth it goes."
--Barrett Meister, fourth grade, St. Matthew's Parish School
"I am a child.
I wonder if my friends and family are OK.
I hear sirens and screaming and booms and crashes as buildings fall to the ground ...
I want to wake up and realize that this was all a bad, bad dream. ...
I touch the ruins of what used to be the tallest building in New York, and it makes me want to cry.
I worry that my life will never be the same again.
I am a child."
--Elizabeth Hecht, fifth grade, Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School
"Love bursts forth from your heart and waters the days of your world.
--Virgilia Tello, fifth grade, Oxnard Street School
"There is a time, there is a place, when hatred conquers all. ... Why would you do this to everyone? ... What lie are you whispering into my ear? Some awful lie that you think will earn you sympathy. Leave now, you are no longer welcome here."
--Keaton Flicker, fifth grade, Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School
"The world is a fabulous place, it's our shelter, it's our protection, it's our home. At home, everybody should get along pretty nicely; but in this round home, we act like 4-year-olds."
--Doriane Raiman, fifth grade, Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School
"A lot of people right now would rather die than live in the future, because they don't know what to see in the future. ... People are curious about why everything happened the way it did. What did happen on that plane? How did this happen? This itches people all over their bodies."
--Caroline Jensen, seventh grade, St. Matthew's Parish School
"Because of the terrorism attack, there will probably be a war. The consequences of war will be to blow up the biggest cities. L.A. is one of them. I live in Los Angeles, and that's why I'm scared."
--Melanie Balboa, fifth grade, Oxnard Street School
"Those people who lost family, I would like to tell them that your loved ones who died are resting in peace in a place called Heaven."
--Chris Cortez, fifth grade, Oxnard Street School
"When things like this happen, people look up in confusion at God the master.
People blame the problem on God, not on themselves and tell him to fix the problem faster.
Then the people look in the sky,
--From a 9-year-old Muslim girl, who preferred not to be named, at the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County
"I think the president should look in every single place in the world to find those attackers because if we don't, the attackers will get better ideas and get stronger."
--Lyanne Torres, fifth grade, Oxnard Street School
"A sunrise is happier than a sunset. Especially in these turbulent times, each sunrise brings a promise of a new start, a new day and new hope. Sunrises spread tranquility over the land, and before every busy day begins, there is silence and peace that is so hard to come by these days."
--Kelsey Van Hook, seventh grade, St. Matthew's Parish School
Compiled by Times staff writers Roy Rivenburg and Lynn Smith.