At Addams Junior High School in Schaumburg, students recited the Pledge of Allegiance slowly, concentrating on the words. In a lunchroom at Palatine High School, students waited in long lines to pick up homemade red, white and blue yarn bracelets to wear through the school day.
History students in Hinsdale studied the politics of Afghanistan and prayed for a classmate who lost his father. A Baptist Christian Academy senior in Des Plaines read a poem he wrote. Buffalo Grove High School students reached out to survivors 1,000 miles away by organizing a blood drive and a fundraiser.
This is how students in the Chicago area responded Wednesday to the terrorist attack on the U.S.--with a quiet, patriotic resolve to remember the thousands of victims who were killed as they tried to sort out their own feelings.
Around 9 a.m. at Buffalo Grove High, the bustling school became as quiet as a church when library director Rose Cory read a speech she wrote to students. It spoke of gratitude, patience and understanding.
"Terrorists are trying to take away our sense of safety, but they have not taken away our intelligence, compassion or joy," she told the students via the public address system. "Make it a great day or not . . . the choice is yours."
At suburban elementary schools, principals and teachers moved cautiously Wednesday in discussing events with younger children.
"If the children bring it up, we'll take the time to sit down and discuss it with them," said Thomas Dewing, principal of Dooley Elementary School in Schaumburg. "We're not teaching lessons about terrorism or the Middle East crisis. We're not highlighting it that way at all."
But that's exactly what Dan Otahal highlighted in his U.S. history class at Hinsdale Central High. He wanted his students to move beyond the horrific images they saw on TV and develop a deeper understanding of the fanaticism and anti-American sentiment that triggered Tuesday's mass killings.
It was a tragedy made personal by the reminder that one of their classmates, Daniel Mladenik, lost his father, who was aboard the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center.
"What happened to that young man's father brought it right into the classroom," said Central teacher Steve Gross, who has Daniel in his American studies class. "It got them away from this gut reaction of `Let's bomb someone.' They are processing this."
Otahal's lesson pushed students in a more thoughtful direction. The class talked about the political power of the Taliban and reviewed an article about Osama bin Laden's sophisticated and well-financed terrorist organization.
The students discussed the capitalistic symbolism of the World Trade Center and analyzed whether President Bush's first reactions to the crisis demonstrated his leadership skills. They shared stories about lax security checks at airports and wondered why the airline passengers didn't overpower hijackers armed with knives and blades.
Sprawled on the gymnasium floor with pen and paper in hand, pupils at Cooper Middle School in Buffalo Grove set out to document history.
The assignment was to write a letter to their future children or grandchildren, telling them where they were and what they were thinking when the tragedy struck. The letters were sealed in envelopes and handed over to teachers, who promised to mail them back when the students are seniors in high school.
One 13-year-old girl wrote a letter addressed to herself: "It's just like World War III. This has been a loss to everyone. This is what I want to remember when I get older."
An 8th-grade boy wrote a letter that started with him brushing his teeth and ended with a ghastly realization. "All of the sudden, I saw a huge jet fly right into the other trade tower. Then I knew, that's no accident."