Thirteen-year-old Victoria Nunnely leans across her computer at South Carolina’s Mauldin Middle School to talk with her classmate about a question posed online: Should we rebuild the World Trade Center?

“We should show them that we will rebuild and we will be stronger,” said Alexandria Roberts, 13.

“I think we should rebuild, but we should put parachutes in there and special glass or something,” Victoria said. “Because we saw people jumping out of the building.”

Horrifying images from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington are fresh in the minds of many students. Now, a month later, the shock has worn off and led to thoughtful discussions of war and the future by teens who are watching history unfold before them.

To help them share their thoughts with their peers in other states, South Carolina Educational Television has set up an online bulletin board called Bridge Builders.

“I knew it made me feel better to share my feelings,” said John Bane, director of creative services at SCETV and creator of the bulletin board. “I wanted kids who were directly affected by the attacks to know that kids elsewhere shared their feelings of hurt and bewilderment.”

ETV asked South Carolina social studies teachers to get their classes involved. The network contacted school boards in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Boston to involve students touched by the horror.

Students on the internet bulletin board have discussed religion, discrimination, and chemical warfare and evaluated President Bush’s handling of the incidents.

“I think this has helped everybody,” said Shanaya Suchak, 13. “If you don’t talk about it, it grows bigger and bigger. A lot of people just want to get out what they’re feeling.”

Teen-agers at Newcomers High School in Long Island City, N.Y., have been sharing their unique perspective with other American students.

Students at the school, which looks out on the New York City skyline, are immigrants representing 65 countries. Many of them came to the United States expecting a safer life, said teacher Julie Mann.

“You are safer in some places than others, but I didn’t expect that to happen here. That’s why I moved here,” said Sebastian Duque, 16, from Colombia.

Assaba Massougbadji, 16, is worried about discrimination and racial profiling. Massougbadji moved to New York from Togo in West Africa almost two years ago and has become friends with many Arab and Afghan teens.

“I’m really scared for my friends,” she said. “What happened Sept. 11 was done by Arabs, but that doesn’t mean all Arabs feel the same way.”

Sebastian and Assaba agree that the attacks damaged the country but did not destroy it.

“We feel more united as Americans now,” Sebastian said. “The purpose was to separate us, but I think it didn’t happen. It made us be together—as people, as a society.”

Back in the South Carolina suburbs, Irmo High School Spanish teacher Sibela Nye said her students have been thinking about the world differently since the attacks.

“Kids don’t know about international affairs. They don’t care,” Nye said. “But there’s been a change. They’re asking questions.”

Links:

South Carolina Educational Television
http://www.scetv.org

Bridge Builders
http://www.knowitall.org/bridgebuilders