SCMP Saturday, September 15, 2001

International schools try to address US carnage


International schools held religious services, reflective silences and discussions to help staff and students cope with the terrorist attacks on the United States this week.
Hong Kong's premier American-style college, Hong Kong International School, also offered counselling to students. While the school has students from 40 different countries, many are from the US or hold US passports, and a number have been waiting on news of friends and family.
Head of school William Wehrenberg tried to console the school community by sending a letter home with students.
"We are all stunned and saddened by the events of the last 24 hours. Our thoughts and prayers must be focused on those who have been injured and whose families have lost loved ones. We also must focus our support and prayers on our community in Hong Kong," the letter said.
West Island School principal Brian Driver said teachers, many with close ties in America, were shocked and subdued when they attended a school meeting on Wednesday. Lessons gave way to a discussion of the events as older students grappled with the issues while younger students tried to decipher the film fiction pictures into a real context.
Children tried to put the shocking events into perspective, wanting to know who had done it and why, and quizzed teachers about how bad the crisis was, said Mr Driver.
"Some of the younger children have been perhaps more engaged by the explosions, the plane, the fire, the destruction, whereas the older students are more disturbed about why, what next and how does one respond to that.
"I think it's important for schools to recognise the event and try to deal with it rather than ploughing on as if nothing happened," he said.