What was it like to be a kid with a birthday on Sept. 11, 2001, the day planes struck the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers? We talked to kids with 9/11 birthdays and published their words on Sept. 11, 2002. Jeffrey LaBelle, of Alexandria, had nightmares. He talked about how kids were teasing him this year about having a cursed birthday. For a while, he thought about somehow changing his birthday.

Instead, he tried to forget the anniversary but remember his birthday. When Sept. 11 came "it was fine," the seventh-grader said. Friends at lunch sang "Happy Birthday." On a weekend after Sept. 11, he and some friends went to a paintball place and had pizza.

Jeffrey, 12, likes his classes, playing hockey and video games and being with friends. But he loves reading. "I tried 'War and Peace.' Gosh that's huge! And the print's so small," he said. "I quit after page 96. It got really weird. "

-- Fern Shen

Skunks in Florida?What's that smell?

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, concerned that the number of skunks is shrinking, said in October that it wanted to hear from anyone who had seen or smelled a skunk in the state since 1997.

Officials got 1,820 e-mails, plus about 400 letters. Some early findings:

* Skunk sightings are more plentiful in northern Florida than in the south.

* There are more striped skunks than spotted skunks.

Why worry about skunks? Biologist Kristen Nelson noted that skunks eat bugs, rats, mice and other pests, and that owls and other animals eat skunks. "Any animal that's here has some function in the ecosystem," she said.

-- Scott Moore

Whatever

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Catching Up

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Last Year

Jeffrey LaBelle has a Sept. 11 birthday.