FAMILY SPECIAL "What Happened?: The Story of September 11, 2001," from "Nick News With Linda Ellerbee"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 9 on Nickelodeon

REASON TO WATCH Stark, simple, informative and moving primer (or refresher) of the terror attacks and aftermath.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT "You may get a lot of information that's wrong," Ellerbee says at the start of this valuable half-hour history digest aimed at kids who were very young or perhaps not yet born on that fateful day 10 years ago.

The kids themselves tell us what they think they know about 9/11 -- that 500 planes disappeared, or Iraqis ordered by Saddam Hussein carried out the four airliner hijackings. Ellerbee immediately appears in her trademark orange high-tops to stress that none of what the kids say is true. She runs through the facts -- 19 men in small groups, most from Saudi Arabia, followers of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida group, hijacked planes to humiliate the United States and inspire Muslims to rally for an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East.

Sept. 11 is then recalled by kids who lived in lower Manhattan, near the site of the World Trade Center attacks, kids whose parents worked on the rescue effort, or those who were in the Florida classroom where then-President George W. Bush was informed about the attacks.

Finally -- and it's a lot to accomplish in about 20 minutes -- Ellerbee lets kids ask questions to be answered by experts from the 9/11 Commission, Homeland Security, journalism and academia. Do most Muslims sympathize with the attackers? Why did we invade Afghanistan? Is the "war on terror" over?

MY SAY Most adults should watch "Nick News," too, considering the continued confusion over the details, motivations and fallout of 9/11. Ellerbee lays it all out in calm and considered fashion, but packs in the particulars of timing, locations and world impact. (Some of the most horrific details are downplayed for her young audience: no planes-into-buildings footage, no talk about box cutters.)

Yet her report's lasting impact lies in its emotional understanding of what happened to America that day, and how kids then -- and now -- may feel about it. After delivering so much information, her closing move is to console our souls, suggesting we take away the image of "Americans, including kids, displaying under the most horrific circumstances the triumph of the human spirit."

BOTTOM LINE Vital history that speaks to the scared kid in all of us.


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