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Most New York City schools open doors, begin healing

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A student at Everett Middle School in San Francisco works on a quilt that honors the victims of the attacks.  

(CNN) -- Schools in New York City opened their doors to students Thursday with the exception of those schools below 14th street in Manhattan.

"Due to the limited access to streets below 14th Street, no alternative arrangements are being made for students attending schools in that area," reads the New York City Board of Education Web site. School staff members in the devastated areas are also asked to stay at home.

Schools outside the area surrounding the World Trade Center opened two hours later than usual, but school staff and personnel were asked to report to work at the normal time in order to prepare for crisis counseling, according to the Web site.

CNN's Kathy Slobogin talks to teachers and students about the attacks in New York and Washington (September 13)

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Laura Bush: Pay close attention to children  

Chat: Dr. Steven Marans -- Talking to children about violence  

Children need 'reassurance' in face of tragedy  

Talk about it, counselors advise  

Washington D.C. schools are also open for the first time following Tuesday's assault on the Pentagon, according to the Associated Press.

To make sure children feel their government will protect them, First Lady Laura Bush wrote two separate letters, one addressed to the nation's elementary school children, and the other to high school students.

"I want students to know that they're going to be taken care of," Bush told CNN's John King during an interview at the White House. "I hope that parents pay close attention to their kids," she says.

She said the first step is to prevent children from watching television "over and over" and instead "do something constructive," like write letters to local police and fire departments and express their feelings by drawing pictures or just talking.

"I would agree that children should not be exposed to unremitting coverage of the events," says Dr. Steven Marans, who heads up the National Center of Children Exposed to Violence at Yale University's Child Study Center.

"There are, for example, younger children under the age of 8 and perhaps a little bit older, where the exposure is more overwhelming than informative," he says.

Marans agrees helping children learn how to communicate their feelings about the tragedy is probably the best therapy. He urges teachers, parents and counselors to be honest with children.

"Children need to know the truth and part of that truth is that this event was unanticipated and a tragedy occurred."

"These events remind us that as families, and communities, and as a nation, we are at our best when we recognize the strength of our feelings both in terms of our anger as well as the feelings of sadness," Marans says.

MSU: Helping Children Cope with Disasters/Trauma
Education Week: Schools and Crisis
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Helping Children After a Disaster

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