Parents need not worry about next week's special Sept. 11-inspired episodes of Sesame Street frightening the little ones. The installments — which kick off the show's 33rd season and deal with such issues as fire safety, bullying and prejudice — make no mention of the actual attacks. "I know they're getting billed as 9/11-themed shows," laments Rosemarie Truglio, PhD, Sesame Street's vice president of education and research. "They were written in response to 9/11, but through a child's eyes it has no meaning.

"Our pre-school audience is too young," adds Truglio of the show's decision not to reference the tragedies. "Some of the kids have never been exposed to Sept. 11. A lot of parents shielded their children from this, so no, there's no mention of that at all. Sesame Street is about empowering children and providing information to help them navigate and cope with their world."

For example, Monday's season premiere features a shaken Elmo coping with the aftershocks of a small fire at Hooper's Store. After getting a crash course on fire safety from one of the firefighters — and later a VIP tour of their firehouse — Elmo is tickled pink. "This show might be relevant to a child who experienced a fire or has seen a fire," Truglio suggests. "Hopefully they will go, 'I remember when Elmo was in a fire... '"

A subsequent episode, meanwhile, deals with cultural diversity. When Big Bird's fine-feathered pen-pal, Gulliver, pays a visit, he's shocked to learn that the Yellow One's best friend — Snuffleupagus — isn't also a member of the fowl family. "He's just horrified," she previews. "Big Bird takes a stand for his friend and says, 'A friend is someone you care about and enjoy doing things with. It doesn't matter what the person looks like.' So, Gulliver learns to respect the differences [of others] and they all start playing together."

Osama, set your VCR!