9/11 Widow Leads Push for Teaching Lessons of Terrorism

By Brian Thompson
|  Friday, Jul 15, 2011  |  Updated 9:11 AM EDT
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The widow of a 9/11 victim used her family's experience to push for a curriculum for New Jersey on terrorism, security and civil liberties.

The widow of a 9/11 victim used her family's experience to push for a curriculum for New Jersey on terrorism, security and civil liberties.

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New Jersey is launching curriculum of 9/11-related lesson plans for kindergartners through teenagers, and one woman who lost her husband in the 2001 disaster says she is "hopelessly idealistic" about the outcome.

MaryEllen Salamone's children were 2, 4 and 6 when their father was killed.

As a co-founder of Families of 9/11, she decided that all children should learn from the tragedy of that day, and with the help of New Jersey educators and its Department of Education, a new teaching guide is ready for the classroom.

"As a parent you're faced with 'And now what?'" Salamone said, describing her thoughts after her children lost their father.

During a vacation to Ireland five years ago, her now-14-year-old son, Aiden, saw a memorial plaque to an Irishman who lost his life in the Northern Ireland conflict and mistakenly linked it to 9/11.

Salamone realized a need for educational curriculum about the 2001 disaster.

"I didn't think it was Irishman killing Irishman," Aiden told NBC New York. "I thought it was Osama bin Laden."

With that, Salamone went on a mission to develop lesson plans for teachers to use in the classroom.

A grant from the Investors Savings Bank Foundation jump-started efforts with educators, the Liberty Science Center and the New Jersey State Commission on Holocaust Education.

Lesson plans range from "The Power of Words" for kindergartners and "Civil Rights in the Era of Terrorism" for high schoolers.

But these offerings come during an era when teachers are expected to focus on standardized testing.

Salamone nonetheless hopes they find time in their classrooms for these lesson plans.

"If we don't actually teach them about the state of the world that they live in," Salamone said, "then we really let them leave school unprepared."

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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