"Now if it happens again, we'll know what to do." That's the startling and sobering conclusion one student at P.S. 234 in New York City reached while reflecting on the chaos and terror of last September 11.
When the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m., it was the beginning of the day at the beginning of the academic year for a class of fourth-graders whose public school is just four blocks from ground zero.
For many of these children, it was a day when they started learning lessons usually reserved for adults.
National Geographic EXPLORER tells the story of that day through the eyes of these students in a prime-time TV documentary, Growing Up at Ground Zero.
Reliving the Day
The EXPLORER team and National Geographic Kids magazine spent six months in teacher Pat Carney's fourth-grade classroom capturing the memories and documenting the resilience of these young children.
Amber Wong was late for school that day and saw the first plane hit the building. "I had to explain to my mom what happened," she relates.
At that time, what had happened was still unknownwhether the gaping hole in the tower was the result of an explosion, an accident, or a deliberate act were all possibilities.
As news gradually filtered through the school, and a second plane crashed into the south tower, the anxiety of not knowing what was happening escalated.
Parents who were nearby raced to the school, described the situation to teacher Pat Carney, and grabbed their kids and fled as flames and smoke poured out of the gaping holes in the twin towers.