Washington, DC, September 2002
- The American Public Health Association announces the publication of Schools of Ground Zero, the story of how public school districts in Lower Manhattan dealt with the events of Sept.11, 2001, and their aftermath.
Written by the parents of two children who attend public school in lower Manhattan, Schools of Ground Zero focuses on the effect that the Sept. 11 attacks had on the physical and mental health of New York City schoolchildren--from preschool age through grade 12--and their parents. At the time of the attacks, there were more than 6,000 children attending the public schools in the vicinity of the World Trade Center.
On Sept. 11, the seven public schools closest to the World Trade Center were evacuated. No school was prepared to cope with a disaster of this magnitude, and the evacuations occurred in an atmosphere of confusion and panic. Many of the children were outside at the time that the second tower fell, and were exposed to the smoke and fumes of the toppling building. Miraculously, none of the children were injured or killed, and all eventually returned home safely.
Following the attacks, students were displaced for months until their schools reopened. When they returned to their schools in early 2002, many children complained of respiratory problems and headaches, which the authors attribute to inadequate cleaning and ventilation of the reopened schools.
Schools of Ground Zero uses the example of the World Trade Center attacks to illustrate how school officials may be unprepared to cope with emergencies, and uncertain how to proceed after the event. Drawing on interviews with parents, teachers, New York Board of Education officials and environmental consultants, the authors make practical recommendations for safeguarding the health and safety of schoolchildren in times of crisis.
Ms. Bartlett and Mr. Petrarca are longtime residents of lower Manhattan. Ms. Bartlett is a journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Business Week, Fortune and other publications. She was recently appointed Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College, City University of New York. Mr. Petrarca is an architect whose firm, StudioPetrarca, specializes in environmental design and construction. The couple's two children were attending P.S. 234, a public school in the vicinity of the World Trade Center, on Sept. 11.