Documentary aims to help kids understand 9/11 terror attacks
NEW YORK (AP) — For students from elementary to high school, the Sept. 11 terrorist attack isn’t a memory. It’s history. A new HBO documentary that debuts on the event’s 18th anniversary treats it that way.
The necessity of her project, “What Happened on September 11,” struck filmmaker Amy Schatz when a third grade girl told her about a playdate where she and a friend Googled “Sept. 11 attacks.”
“When a child does that, what he or she finds are some pretty horrific images that are not necessarily appropriate for kids,” Schatz said on Tuesday. “So I felt a responsibility to try to fill that void and try to give kids something that isn’t horrifying and kind of fills in the gap.”
The half-hour film debuts Wednesday at 6 p.m. A companion piece, focusing on the memories of former students at a high school near Ground Zero, premieres three hours later.
Schatz has made a specialty of creating films that seek to explain the inexplicable, with “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm” tackling the Holocaust and another on the Parkland shooting. “I’m really desperate for some more lightness very soon,” she said.
In this case, she worked with the Sept. 11 remembrance museum on the story, filming two men who work there giving presentations to third graders. Stephen Kern, who worked on the 62nd floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, talks about being evacuated. Matthew Crawford, whose father was a firefighter who died that day, discusses his experience. She also found a middle school in Secaucus, New Jersey, that teaches history through art and poetry, helping students process the emotions of what they learned.