In the years after losing her husband on September 11, Mary Ellen Salimone took her three children on a family vacation to Ireland. Salimone’s cousin is a member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in Belfast and gave Salimone and her children a tour of the Parliament building. One of the building’s walls commemorates the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland by listing all of their names and the dates of their death. When Salimone’s children saw the wall, one of them said, “Oh my God! Mom look, Osama bin Laden has been here also!”
“That was one of those light bulb moments, and it was so clear,” says Salimone, “if my own kids who lived through this – and we talk about it at home a lot – if they have no idea what happened and why, then the vast majority of American students must definitely feel the same way.”
Salimone, a former consultant for the New Jersey Department of Education who lives in North Caldwell, N.J., found that many teachers had little experience or guidance on how to teach such sensitive material. Inspired by the loss of her husband, John Patrick Salimone, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, Salimone started The 4 Action Initiative, the first Sept. 11 curriculum for children K-12.
Donna Gaffney, a child psychologist from Summit, N.J., who specializes in dealing with trauma-related issues, advised the curriculum writers on how to create lesson plans that deal with the more challenging issues surrounding Sept. 11.
The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism spoke with them at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, which donated staff and resources to the creation of the curriculum.
To see more of the CUNY J-school’s “Children of 9/11” project, click here