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TRAGIC LESSON
By MALCOLM BALFOUR
PHOTO CLASS ACTION:
President Bush, in a Sarasota, Fla., classroom last 9/11, is informed of the attacks by Andrew Card.
- Reuters

September 12, 2002 --

SARASOTA, Fla. - At Emma E. Booker Elementary School, teacher Sandra Daniels recalled yesterday how she and her class learned of the terror attacks - when a federal agent rushed into the room to inform the president of the United States.

President Bush had been presiding over her reading class last 9/11, when a Secret Service agent interrupted the lesson and asked, "Where can we get to a television?"

"The president bolted right out of here and told me: �Take over,' " Daniels told The Post yesterday. "I knew something serious had happened, and then a short while later he came back and said, �What we thought was an airline accident turned out to be a terrorist hijack.'

"My kids were so happy that morning - imagine the president of the United States sitting there shooting the breeze, and then poof, suddenly he's gone. What do you say to a bunch of second-graders?"

Her class was watching TV in the media room when the second plane hit. Daniels almost broke down.

"I didn't want to collapse right there in front of my class, so I decided to treat the tragedy as a learning tool," she said. "I explained what a hijacking is and what a terrorist is. I told them how innocent people who went to work that morning, just like your parents, were dying because some people hated America because we're so free."

It was when one of the kids asked who was going to look after the kids whose Mommies and Daddies are dying that Daniels broke down and cried. She said that started all the kids crying, and she went around the room hugging each one.

What began as one of the happiest days of their lives ended as the saddest.

"It was like their tears washed all that happiness away," Daniels said.

Natalie Pinkney was the only student in the class who had time to ask the president a question before his hurried departure. "I asked him what his goals were for Emma Booker Elementary," she said yesterday. He told me: �We're going to be sure that each and every one of you gets a good education - that nobody is left behind.'"

* One name was added yesterday to the list of confirmed dead in the World Trade Center attack:

Valerie Silver Ellis, 46.


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