For many, their video games were turned off. Instead, they watched TV and witnessed dark gray waters sweep away villages and families.
The bodies of children their age lay in piles as distant parents desperately searched.
Sitting safely on the other side of the screen, Adrienne Noyes was among the thousands of East Valley students spending the second half of winter vacation with a sunken heart as each day ended with a larger death toll in Asia.
The 11-year-old Scottsdale sixthgrader returned to Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center on Monday to organize a "tsilver for tsunami" coin drive — one of hundreds of fund-raisers arranged by children throughout the East Valley eager to help as school resumed in most areas this week.
"I was shocked," Adrienne said. "I’ve never seen water so big destroying a city like that. I felt so horrible for those people . . . It makes me devastated."
Taa-Toh and Taa-Tah Bailey of Gilbert were relieved to learn none of their family members in Thailand was affected by the tsunami, though a family friend was moments from boarding a boat when a last-minute warning advised him to stay ashore, saving his life.
The Bailey family now is collecting hygiene supplies at Finley Farms Elementary School in Gilbert to send to an aunt working as a registered nurse in Bangkok.
Many East Valley schools are collecting coins or hygiene products to send to the Red Cross. Others are using the collections to learn about the tsunami and even do math problems with the change. One group of choral students in Scottsdale is planning to market a CD and send profits to the victims.
In the Kyrene Elementary School District, several drives are planned, from selling buttons at Kyrene del Sureño Elementary School to a carwash at Kyrene Monte Vista Elementary School.
Yavapai Elementary School in Scottsdale may enroll students from one of the lowest-income communities, but the school always comes to the aid of disaster victims and is beginning its own coin drive.
"Our kids are wonderful and giving," said principal Wendy Cohen. "They’re very aware they’re very lucky to live in the U.S. And while people have more . . . regardless of what you have, you have to give something."