Schools closed while NY burns

14th September 2001 at 01:00
UNITED STATES: New York City schools are not expected to re-open until next week while plans are drawn up to help pupils cope with the aftermath. Leslie Goffe reports.

New York City woke to the sight of death and destruction all around on Wednesday morning after terrorists hijacked two commercial airliners on Tuesday and crashed them into the city's World Trade Center, one of the largest and best-known buildings in the world Hundreds were killed in the aircraft and almost certainly many thousands in the buildings and on the ground.

The attacks have paralysed the entire lower Manhattan area and led to the shutting down of airports, bridges, tunnels, streets and state schools. Schools in New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Washington DC, parts of Virginia and Maryland were closed. Los Angeles and New Jersey schools stayed open.

Schools chancellor Harold O Levy said schools would remain closed while administrators, social workers, school psychologists, and teachers worked "to prepare plans to respond to the tragedy". They are not expected to reopen fully until next week.

New Jersey teacher Jimmy Salam said he had the sad job of comforting children whose parents were believed dead in the attacks.

"I had to take one boy out of the class whose father worked in the World Trade Center," said Salam, who teaches high school in East Orange, New Jersey.

One of a growing number of African-American Muslims, he said: "If it turns out that it is Muslims who have done this, it is going to be bad for us.

"I have already started telling my kids that the Koran does not believe in terror. I think a lot of us are going to suffer for what some people from overseas who call themselves Muslims are doing."

In Florida, elementary school teacher Pat Robertson said panic had begun to set in after news of the WTC and Pentagon attacks were broadcast.

Nearby Walt Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center, near the Orlando area in central Florida, were both evacuated and employees sent home.

"I had to tell children that this would not hurt them," Robertson said. "It was difficult because I worked in the WTC for 10 years."

Before releasing students from school on Tuesday as news of the grim events unfolded, many New York teachers had already begun an informal type of grief counselling, the Board of Education said.

Children were encouraged to discuss the events to alleviate stress.

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