The story of what happened in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 is difficult to fathom for most adults. So how do you explain it to children?
That’s the question the new Flight 93 National Memorial Junior Rangers Program hopes to address, using two years of research into how children deal with traumatic events.
On Saturday, the program and a specially-designed children’s activity booklet for visitors ages six to twelve will be unveiled during “Junior Ranger Day.” The day will also feature a Children’s Discovery Table where kids can make their own tributes.
The Junior Ranger Program is offered in National Parks across the country to engage children and teach them about each park. Young visitors complete activities, then take the Junior Ranger Pledge and receive an official badge. Flight 93 Memorial Superintendent Jeff Reinbold said designing a Junior Ranger program for his site presented unique challenges.
“It’s a tough story to tell children, for them to understand what happened on September 11th with the crash of Flight 93,” said Reinbold.
According to Reinbold, young visitors to the site are often confused by the vast white wall and alarmed to see their parents react emotionally to it. He hopes the Junior Ranger Program will help children understand and appreciate the memorial.
The activity booklet tells the story of Flight 93 and September 11th in a short, child-friendly way. Although the story tells children what happened on the attacks, Reinbold says the purpose of the booklet is to inform children about the memorial.
“We didn’t focus as much on the details of the hijacking or the crash, but on some of the things that they’ll see out on the site,” explained Reinbold.
The booklet was designed through a partnership with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and experts at Highmark Caring Place and the Fred Rogers Company. Reinbold said the memorial had a less-sophisticated program for children for many years, but through the research done at Pitt, “we have a better understanding of how kids interact with a site like this.”
“The researchers from Pitt went through the years of data and messages that children have left at the site and worked with other sites of trauma to understand what parts of the story might the kids respond to,” said Reinbold.
The Junior Ranger Program will be available at the site daily upon request. To receive a booklet and have their children participate in the Junior Ranger Program, parents should visit the National Parks Service website.