How Sesame Street Dealt With 9/11

Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images for HBO
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images for HBO
by Louisa Mellor

When Sesame Street’s 33rd season went to air a few months after September 11, 2001, the show’s creators knew they had to acknowledge that day’s tragic events. The beloved educational show had a reputation for talking honestly to its young audience about difficult subjects, from grief to bullying, divorce, and racism. This would be no different.

"It was a devastating time for all of us," Rosemarie Truglio, the show's senior vice president of education and curriculum, recalled. "We felt we needed to do something in response to 9/11, but we knew we had to be very careful, because our viewers are so young, and parents are returning to educational programming as a safe haven for kids."

The key question was how to help preschoolers understand the aftermath of a terrorist attack without scaring them further. Metaphors were the answer.

Rather than depict an attack on the streets of Manhattan, Sesame Street’s creators depicted a kitchen fire breaking out in Hooper’s Store. No flames were shown, only smoke. The sequence advised children on safe behavior when witnessing a fire: to tell a grown-up, evacuate, or “stay low and go” and alert the fire department.

But the real message came in the aftermath of the fire. Sesame Street used its youngest, most vulnerable character, Elmo, to help children through their anxiety. As the firefighters—real life members of the Fire Department of New York—made the store safe again, Elmo was shown shaking and traumatized by the smoke, flashing lights, and strange firefighting equipment. He never wanted to go back to Hooper’s Store again.

But he did, thanks to some patient advice from a friendly FDNY employee named Bill, who gently explained the purpose of his protective clothing and taught Elmo that no matter how scary they might look, firefighters are there to help. An educational visit to the firehouse and a ride on an engine later, and Elmo was back to feeling safe again.

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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How the Trapper Keeper Trapped the Hearts of '80s and '90s Kids

Courtesy of Cinzia Reale-Castello
Courtesy of Cinzia Reale-Castello

No matter when or where you grew up, back-to-school shopping typically revolved around two things: clothing and school supplies. And if you’re an adult of a certain age, you probably had a Trapper Keeper on that latter list of must-buy items.

Like the stickers, skins, and cases that adorn your smartphones and laptops today, Trapper Keepers were a way for kids to express their individual personalities. The three-ring binders dominated classrooms in the '80s and '90s, and featured a vast array of designs—from colorful Lisa Frank illustrations to photos of cool cars and popular celebrities—that allowed kids to customize their organizational tools. 

In this episode of "Throwback," we're ripping open the Velcro cover and digging into the history of the Trapper Keeper. You can watch the full episode below.

Be sure to head here and subscribe so you don't miss an episode of "Throwback," where we explore the fascinating stories behind some of the greatest toys and trends from your childhood.