Thursday, May 5, 2011

Children with President Bush on 9/11 relive moments

Sarasota, Florida  As children, they had a front row seat to history,­ to an event they did not understand. Startled and confused, they watched after the president of the United States receive the news that their country was under attack by terrorists.
Today, as teenagers, they're reliving that moment with the death of the man who plotted those attacks, Osama bin Laden.
"It's obviously a relief," said Chantal Guerrero, 16.
"I think justice was served, because to do something like that, to so many innocent people, is not a normal thing or a moral thing to do," she said. "I think the right call was made."
Chantal has lived with the specter of bin Laden since her once in a lifetime meeting with President George W. Bush was suddenly cut short by the September 11, 2001 attacks.
"You could just tell on his face that something happened," she said. "I bet half of our class didn't even know what the World Trade Center was. I knew something not regular was going on."
The president came to Emma E. Booker Elementary School to tout education and celebrate the school's rising reading scores.
As the class was preparing to read "The Pet Goat" to the president, Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispered in Bush's ear that the United States was under attack.
Minutes later, "he had to excuse himself to leave and he left the classroom," said Mariah Williams, 16, a junior at Sarasota Military Academy.
"All of the kids were leaving early and there was a bunch of confusion and people scared and stuff."
The rest of the story is history.
But the tale of 9/11 has been woven in and out of their young lives ever since that Tuesday in September of 2001, when the president came to visit.
"I was really shocked because I didn't expect them to catch him at all because it's been 10 years" Mariah Williams said of bin Laden.
But what they also didn't expect was the fast track to maturity that has come with their place in history.
Lenard Rivers is a junior defensive back on Sarasota High School's football team. He was age 7 when he shook the president's hand in 2001.
The events of that day made a lasting impression.
"I know that anything can happen at any moment and things can change real quick," he said.
For Guerrero, the almost-10-year saga, and her place in that classroom on that fateful day, was surreal and amazing, she said.
"I think it helped me realize and be a little more serious and learn how to deal with things more firsthand at a younger age," she said. "It gives me a better appreciation for authority in this country, like our military, at a younger age as well."
Guerrero is an honors student who's looking forward to a career in music and dance.
She says she will always remember that day, but Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of Navy SEALs is not the end of the impact.
"Maybe it was a little bit of closure, but it's not finished, because you're never going to be able to bring back those people that those families lost," she said.
Guerrero has visited ground zero several times over the years, including about six months after the attacks.
Her mother, Angeline Guerrero, thought that it was important to put that tragic day into perspective. The whole experience, she said, has helped her daughter grow up faster.
"She's an achiever and I really think it has to do with the impact it had on those kids that were there," Angeline Guerrero said. "I think they just see the world differently."
But, she adds that the death of bin Laden is not the final chapter in this story, or in the war on terror.
"I don't think it ends anything because I always think there are others out there," she said. "It ended him, but he still has people out there. I think it closed a chapter."

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