But it was hard to follow the professionals' advice, as I was also suffering from trauma. I didn't want to let Kevin out of my sight. Because I knew, intellectually, that giving into my feelings could hurt his recovery. I struggled to subdue my fear.
Kevin was in eighth grade and had been riding subways alone for two years. We decided that we would accompany him on the day I.S. 89 reopened in a temporary location, 10 days after the attacks, but would allow him to travel on his own once he asked. That happened the next week.
Before parents send their children off into the world alone, they try to prepare them for the worst dangers they can imagine. Years ago, we had taught Kevin how to respond to muggers and other threatening strangers. Now, we prepared him for situations far more perilous. We taught him survival strategies to use in the event of another attack, discussed places where he could seek shelter and gave him a cell phone. Kevin was delighted with the phone and seemed relieved to have a plan, in case the unthinkable once again happened.
Kevin's emotional recovery progressed slowly, until late January, when I.S. 89 returned to its own building. The return of students to the edge of Ground Zero had been a controversial issue. Although I initially had misgivings, I joined a group of parents who worked to advance the return after I saw that Kevin and his classmates desperately wanted to go "home." Ironically, once back at the scene of their trauma, Kevin and his classmates were clearly happier.
Two months later, Kevin's class participated in a mock Supreme Court argument in New York's historic Federal Hall, in a case that questioned whether the government could prevent a newspaper from publishing information because it might be useful to terrorists. Laura and I both slipped away from work to watch the arguments. It was incredibly moving to watch Kevin and other "Ground Zero kids" who had witnessed such a brutal example of terrorism draw on their own experiences to wage a spirited debate about the meaning of freedom.
Kevin is now attending a high school in Brooklyn. Although Sept. 11 and what it represents is never far away, he is much more focused on his new life as a ninth-grader than on this painful anniversary. That is as it should be. The best hope for recovery for the Ground Zero kids is that great gift of childhood, the ability to live fully in the moment.
Susan Hendricks, a Charleston native, is deputy attorney-in-charge for the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society of New York. She has lived in New York since 1982.