Weston author to talk about her book, and the lasting effects of Sept. 11

Photo of Amanda Cuda

WESTPORT — When Nora Baskin began writing her middle grade novel “Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story” — about four children affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — it was 2014, 13 years after the attacks. The Weston resident said she wasn’t looking to commemorate the tragedy in any particular way, but simply wanted to tell a story about how people’s live were changed by that event.

“I wrote it because it was something I wanted to write about,” she said.

However, the book was published in 2016, the fifteenth anniversary of 9-11, and Baskin said it was one of a spate of books about the attack.

“I was surprised,” she said. “I guess it was in the zeitgeist. None of us planned it. It was long enough (since the event) for us to be able to reflect on it.”

This year marks 20 years since the terrorist attacks, and Baskin said her work is still relevant to young readers and their families. She frequently speaks about the book at schools, libraries and other institutions, and uses her book as a catalyst for discussing the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and the way they altered the course of American life.

Baskin is giving such a talk at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Westport Public Libary, 20 Jesup Road. The talk is open to children in fourth through eighth grade and their parents to attend either in person or remotely.

The talk, like her other conversations, will focus not just on the book, but on the attacks themselves and their lasting impact on this country.

Baskin said she’s aware that the children now reading her book weren’t alive when the attacks happened, and that 9-11 has become a historical event, just as World War II and the Holocaust were to past generations.

As with those events, Baskin said, the fact that children didn’t live through 9-11 makes it all the more important for them to learn as much about the tragedy and its aftermath as possible.

“I can promise you that when we don’t talk about something, kids will listen to rumors and misinformation,” she said. “I want kids to know the truth and make up their own minds.”

Giving children the facts about historical events is essential, agreed Dawn Melzer, associate professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Sacred Heart University.

“They’re going to be exposed to (information about 9-11) regardless,” she said. “The worst thing that can happen is that they’re exposed to misinformation. The best is to head it off before all the remembrances happen.”

Melzer said parents’ approach to discussing 9-11 should vary based on children’s ages. With young children of 6 or 7, she said, it’s best to keep the explanations simple.

“You can say that some bad people tricked people, and flew into some buildings with a plane,” she said. “You can say that people died, and that we were sad about it.”

But, Melzer said, with young kids, it’s best to stay away from talk of terrorism, or details about the number of casualties, though she added that it is a good idea to mention the protections put into place since then to keep people safe.

As for older kids, she said, it’s fine to be more detailed.

“But don’t generalize about race or ethnicity. You can talk to them on a higher level about what happened, and give them a space to share their anxiety,” she said.

Melzer said it might be easier in the era of COVID-19 to talk to children about the 9-11 attacks, because they are used to hearing about “helpers” and about how people need to band together to keep each other safe.

“There’s been a lot more conversations about death this year than there used to be,” she said.

As for Baskin, she’s quick to point out that she isn’t a social worker or psychologist, but she is an author, and she said books can provide a great avenue for discussing major events.

“Stories are the best way to gain empathy for an event,” she said.

The kids featured in her book don’t lose anyone to 9-11, but they are all affected by it in some way, whether it’s a young Muslim girl living in Ohio or a California girl whose mother was supposed to have a meeting at the World Trade Center the day of the attacks.

Baskin said she “didn’t write the book to teach anyone about 9-11,” but intended the book to be a good tool for teaching about Islamophobia, the role of first responders, and the security measures put into place after the attacks.

“This is a book about how world changed after 9-11,” she said. “Kids today live in a world really altered by that event, and they don’t know about it.”

To register for Baskin’s talk at the library, visit westportlibrary.org.