A handful of days after that dreadful September 11th 2001, Emmet Moloney – a deputy editor of The Kerryman at the time rang me – for a chat about ideas for a vox pop for the most pressing issue of the paper at the time.
I asked him to leave it with me as I was just finishing my notes for the same issue.
Notes finished and filed, I heard a commotion on the street under the window of the room I work in.
Group of Children
It was from a group of local children discussing with great eloquence the work of Bin Laden and his followers on the demolition of the Twin Towers.
I thought back to when I was their age and the daily news from Vietnam and the pictures the daily radio reports created in my head.
I felt I could walk the Ho Chi Minh Trail and along the Mekong Delta blindfolded and there would be reeks of turf here and there and the odd cow-house or piggery to hide behind or in if I came under attack from the dreaded Viet Cong.
The children under my window that day in 2001 had the whole brutal, visual reality of the planes crashing into the buildings so vividly sandblasted onto their impressionable imaginations. There was no room for softening at the edges. This was the world they were growing up in.
I rang my man in The Kerryman office and told him I’d have something different for him in a hour and I left him hanging at that.
Out onto the street I ventured with camera and voice recorder and job done in 15 minutes or so.
Back in, film gone to Kennelly’s, headphones on, fingers on keyboard and an edited version the following appeared in the issue in question.
Children’s Views on the Twin Towers Atrocities
OSAMA bin Laden, the world’s latest in a long line of bad men, has come under the scope around the globe since the terrible catastrophe in New York on September 11th. He has been in the news before but the latest attack, for which he is alleged to be responsible, has made him a household name throughout the planet.
One day last week, ten and a half year old Andrew Foran came running from his house in St. John’s Park in Castleisland with a newspaper in which he had seen a photograph of the bearded, robed Muslim leader. Andrew spread the paper on a garden wall and a group of children gathered around to see the man believed to be behind the annihilation of the World Trade Centre and the attack on the Pentagon and the deaths of thousands of people. During the week the children, whose future is clouded by the uncertainty of the conflict, gave their views on a range of talking points surrounding the issue.
Andrew Foran thinks that the Americans should go after Bin Ladin if they’re sure he did it. “I think they should kill him and not all the innocent people in the country where he is in hide. He did a lot of damage to them and he killed a lot of the Americans. All the lads at school think that President Bush shouldn’t be like him and kill a lot of innocent people.”
Michael Callaghan (10 ) “I’m afraid that if war breaks out it could spread to Ireland and we don’t deserve that. I saw the planes crashing into the twin towers and the Americans trying to close the border around Afghanistan and they’re trying to get your man, that bombed them, back for what he did to them.”
Priscilla Coffey (9) thinks that the man who bombed the town in America is very bad. She also believes that he headed for England when he knew he was in trouble. “I think he should be put in jail for all of his life. And if I saw him I’d ask him why is he so bad to go bombing all the people in the buildings in the town.”
Aisling Foran (ten and a half) feels that the Americans should make the man, responsible for the bombing, suffer. “I remember the people jumping out the windows and the buildings falling down. I think the man that’s in Afghanistan did it and I think they should make him suffer before they shoot him. I don’t know why he did it but I’d say to him that he has no friends anymore.”
Cáit Riordan (12) also believes that the man responsible should be killed. “It must have been very scary to be in the buildings and to see the planes crashing into them and then trying to get out. The girls at school think he should die after doing such a terrible thing. I’d be afraid that if a war breaks out it would come to Ireland and crush us all.”
Donna O’Brien is 13 years old and she was watching the television pictures from New York. “I saw a lot of women and children running from the building and a woman was talking about being in the second building and being blown up against the other window and she only barely missed not coming out. There’s a girl from Boston in our class and she’s very sad about it. If they find him they should crucify him. He only stayed overnight in Africa I think. If they want to find him they should look in the community centre or a halt or he might be staying in a hotel in Africa or England.”
Áine Riordan (RIP) was almost seven back then. “I saw a lot of dead people and dolls in the building and I had pity for them. I saw a picture of the man who did it but I don’t know his name. If I saw him I would say you’re cruel and I think they should kill him.”
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