Curated by Kelly Shaw
The 9/11 Memorial site states that ‘On any given day in 2001, reportedly thirty to fifty thousand people came to work in the World Trade Center. Tens of thousands more passed through the seven-building complex during their commutes, or came to shop, dine, or take in the views from the South Tower Observation Deck.’ Knowing that, it’s amazing that so many people managed to make it out of those buildings alive on 9/11. But that’s little consolation to those who lost loved ones that day.
I said at the outset of this project – almost 12 months ago when I first put the feelers out there to gauge interest – that it is so important to capture these stories. As an amateur historian and high school history teacher, stories such as the ones contained here are just gold to future generations. And sadly, all too often they’re lost to the annuls of time in just a generation or two. If you’re old enough to have a grandparent or other family member serve in World War II, you’ll understand what I mean.
I also want to acknowledge that, like every collection of stories, it is always a reflection of the broader socio-cultural context from which it is born. I recognise that this is a generally white and Western perspective of this day’s events. We are still driving this narrative. It makes me tremendously sad to think – in addition to all the lives lost that day – that these events also unleashed a wave of Islamophobia in so many places – places as far away as Australia. I remember once hearing the analogy that comparing all Muslims to the terrorists who orchestrated these events was like comparing all Christians to those who support the views of the Westboro Baptist Church. We must never forget that.
Now, for the Thank You’s:
I want to thank everyone who contributed to this project – to my family, friends, and colleagues – some of whom I pestered. Also, thanks to the wonderful contributors from the Facebook page Yanks Down Under. Many of the stories you will read here came to me via that online community, and this collection of stories – many of which came from people who were in New York at the time – is all the richer for those contributions. Thanks to my family: Patrick, Ava, Ned, and Finn who always support my writing endeavors. (The novel is coming, I promise…)
While this project was a long time in the making, it was essentially a one-woman love job. Please forgive me for any small typos or grammatical errors. Sometimes the spellings are American-standard (eg, mom, center), sometimes they are British-standard (eg, mum, centre). (Sometimes both – sorry, I’m a Bos-tralian.) With each story, I did my best to retain the original content and voice of each contribution (this is occasionally harder than you think when wearing an editor’s cap). I also pray to the gods of all things copywriting that I haven’t committed the cardinal sin of misspelling a contributor’s name. The stories are in a random order (I was definitely not organised enough to compile them alphabetically!)
In the process of compiling these stories, I also lost a very dear friend and colleague, Kate Killalea. She passed completely unexpectedly in August of this year, only a few short years into her well-earned retirement. She would have no doubt been my final proofreader and grammar maven. (I went to send her a message only today, to ask her a question, only to realise I couldn’t.) She was going to contribute to this, but as she would have attested – the life of a retiree is indeed a busy one! She welcomed twin grandchildren earlier this year, in addition to her beloved three-year-old grandson, Miles. She never got around to finishing her contribution to this. Oh, how I wish she had…
Thank you for reading. Please share widely. Remember this day. Love hard. Never forget – or, as they say here in Australia to honor the fallen: Lest We Forget.
If you would like to make a contribution of your memories from this day, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to make a donation to the 9/11 Memorial site, you can do so via their website here.