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When Terrorism Is the Teacher
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In this week's StarrPoints, columnist Linda Starr reflects on how teachers can turn the events of September 11 into lessons for a lifetime.


As parents and educators, we like to believe that we are in charge of our children's education -- that we have the power to determine what they are taught. This past week, we realized that we were wrong; not all lessons can be planned, or even anticipated.

Last week, our children saw more than 5,000 people murdered in a single morning -- and they learned that human beings are capable of unspeakable evil.

They saw thousands of would-be rescuers risk their lives for the mere possibility of saving a single victim -- and they learned that human beings are capable of unimaginable good.

They saw workers dressed in suits covered with soot flee in terror as their office buildings collapsed around them -- and they learned that the world is not a safe place.

They saw millions of men, women, and children give blood, provide food, donate money, offer comfort -- do anything just to do something -- and they learned that disaster cannot always be prevented, but it can always be overcome.

They saw terrorist sympathizers cheer at news of the World Trade Center collapse -- and they learned that the United States has vicious enemies.

They saw Londoners weep at make-shift memorials -- and they learned that strangers can also be friends.

They saw angry Americans attack the homes and businesses of innocent Arab American citizens -- and they learned that hate can be contagious.

They saw American citizens of all ethnicities gather at churches and synagogues and mosques, at candlelight vigils and impromptu memorial services -- and they learned that prayer can heal.

They saw huge airliners, carrying mothers and fathers and sons and daughters, turned into deadly missiles -- and they learned that freedom can make us vulnerable.

They saw U.S. flags flying over homes and businesses, from bridges and highway overpasses, on buses and automobile antennas -- and they learned that the love of freedom makes us strong.

Last week, we saw our children taught painful lessons -- and we found that we can't always control what they learn. We can, however -- and we must --help them decide which lessons they will live by.