09/11 8:48 AM: Our Voices

It's partly a chronicle of our nightmare: how it looked, what we imagined, what we did next. But in the anthology 09/11 8:48 AM: Documenting America's Greatest Tragedy, the first book about the terrorist attacks, NYU students, faculty and alumni also write about how the attacks changed our city, our psyche and our future.

Among their 27 essays, profiles and reports is an incredulous letter from Center for War, Peace and the News Media's Robert Manoff to his stepdaughter, marveling at how casually pundits talk about a war that could doom us. Andrew Ross, director of NYU's American Studies graduate program, reflects that American innocence has, since the 1840s Mexican War at least, been shattered every two generations.

We also hear about how the attacks hurt others. Student Caleb Frazier, visiting a sailing school on the city's once revitalizing waterfront, discovers a fleet covered in ash, and a school sinking fast. And journalism professor Mary Quigley considers angst in a supposedly insulated suburb that lost 30 residents.

Versions of some of these stories appeared first in Dispatches, a magazine the NYU journalism department began a week after the tragedy.

-- Mary D'Ambrosio

Order 09/11 8:48 AM: Documenting America's Greatest Tragedy from http://www.booksurge.com, for $14.99. All net proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross.




Never leave the dead girl


Homeless man loses home

By Carol Lee
[Excerpted from 09/11 8:48 with permission of the publisher]


by Jay Rosen

Early on in the crisis that followed the terror of September 11, it became clear that the destruction in New York and Washington was a new kind of international event. Not only did it concern people around the world; but in some way we are still trying to understand, it *happened* to people around the world. The very networks we had been celebrating as embodiments of a global age ran in reverse, so to speak.

Because we're all connected, we could all feel personally terrorized, even if it was not your own city left smoking and stunned the next day. The night the Berlin Wall fell, we all celebrated-- and were right to do so. The day the World Trade Center fell, we were all crushed-- and right again. If there is a dark side to the information age, we never knew how dark until those planes crashed and the networks lit up with the news, "completing" the act of terror by enlisting our emotions in its spread.

Before glasnost, it would have been possible to hijack an Aeroflot jet. But it would not have been easy to terrorize the people of the Soviet Union, for the simple reason that the state could smother news of the event and contain its spread. Back then, the authorities could prevent public discussion of a proper response to terror, like the one that started almost immediately, worldwide, on September 12, 2001. That discussion is actually part of the terror, and provoking it part of the criminals' intent.

In the Hollywood movie *Die Hard* (1988) the hero cop played by Bruce Willis makes a monstrous error when he establishes radio contact with a shadowy gang who have taken over a skyscraper, holding fifty people hostage, including the woman he loves. Once they knew he was listening, the criminals could threaten her life and force Willis to take actions he did not want to risk. He got connected, and they informed him of facts that fed his terror, drew him into a personal hell. This is what I mean by networks that ran in reverse. Over the same lines that carry information goods came a shocking information evil.

About ten days after the catastrophe in lower Manhattan, the city of Los Angeles paid for a full page ad in the New York Times declaring LA's common cause with the people of New York. The Netherlands brought itself to a halt for three minutes, so that the Dutch could think together about what had happened in the United States. Candelight vigils spoke to each other across oceans and continents. Parliaments passed resolutions. Writers took up their pens. Musicians took out their instruments to sing an American tune.

These poignant expressions of fellow feeling showed that something else had happened, after our terrible lesson in how globalization and the media age really work. The free peoples of the world began to shout their outrage at the crime on United States soil, their solidarity with the inhabitants of New York and Washington, their grief at the more than 6,000 lives wasted, their resolve not to let the terrorists "win," their acute awareness that the attack was aimed not only at its immediate victims, their emotional involvement in everything that happened that day-- and also, in the U.S., their war fever and desire for payback, mixed with raw fear, public confusion, open prejudice and spontaneous national unity.

The free peoples of the world also began the arguments they knew they had to conduct in the aftermath, a lesson-learning that will last for years. Warnings not to over-react were heard as soon as the pattern in reactions was felt. And so the global networks almost instantly lit up with information goods again, now so easy to recognize. Which brings us to this book.

The writing collected here includes eyewitness accounts, on-the-ground reportage, personal essays, political argument, public debate, oral history, and a number of other genres. But there is a single theme: how to make human sense of what happened, especially in the City of New York, especially to the people of that city, thousands of whom died in the space of an hour. We use words like "unimaginable" and "unbelievable" to describe the devastation and loss of life in Manhattan, yet there is something not quite right about such terms-- not right for this book.

The most basic act of journalism, by no means limited to journalists, is when someone says to us, "I was there, you weren't, let me tell you about it." Or equally often: "I'm there now, you aren't, so let me tell you." Information changes hands, but it is equally a moment where the mind begins to imagine. Television (and all terrorism is for television) appears to pre-empt this drive to conjure with reality. The images are "there," as in right there. You can--in fact you did--point to the screen and say: look! But how often have we asked one another in the days after Black Tuesday, "Can you imagine?..."

Actually, it's a great question.

We trust the answer is yes, those who edited and authored this book. But we're not taking any chances. Something about a book invites reflection, more than just reaction. We're counting on ordinary book-ness to work its effect here. Life has not even returned to normal as this volume goes to press, and that is one reason it went to press, nineteen days later. The extraordinary global moment that followed upon the attacks is still with us. The writings and reports published here are part of that moment, and they are sent out into it. Each is the work of a struggler, and many of the strugglers were also witnesses to New York City's waking nightmare.

The faculty and students in New York University's Department of Journalism were there, so we can tell you about it. NYU is the closest journalism school to what is called Ground Zero. As chair of the program I thought it proper that the Department itself help edit and author this volume of reports. Anytime you can offer students the role of worldwide witness, you must-- even if some are not quite ready. Anytime you have the chance to be writing precisely what they are writing, from the ground of a similar emotion, you should. Among the student accounts published here, most of them are saying: I was there, with my generation, you weren't. Please let me tell you about it. And so you should. We sent them out to document the destruction, but the reason we sent them out had as much to do with repair.

Finally, this is a book of the Internet Age. Most readers will buy it by the Net or learn about it on the Net. All of the work here originated on the Net, grew from exchanges on the Net, or got sent through the Net to make publication possible. I know that for myself as author, the Internet has never seemed more miraculously human than in the two weeks following the attacks. Being connected is such a mysterious good, I don't think we understand a tenth of it. All I know is that I had more people *with* me than ever before, and every New Yorker felt something similar. No, civic solidarity doesn't follow from pushing Send. But when people actually feel it, they send it with ease now. Counter-terrorism begins there.


The Book is Out!

The first book about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center a collaboration between NYU s department of journalism and the global affairs Website BlueEar.com - is out, to strong early sales and a favorable first review.

Nearly 1,000 copies of the 322-page paperback, 09/11 8:48 AM: Documenting America s Greatest Tragedy, have been ordered from South Carolina-based book publisher BookSurge.com, by both individuals and independent bookstores, NYU journalism department chairman Jay Rosen and BlueEar editor Ethan Casey say. The publisher is also negotiating with chain bookstores about their carrying the book.

The financial goal is to raise $1 million for the American Red Cross.

A first review, by The Boston Phoenix, was admiring.

"Far from being a stunt, 09/11 8:48 AM has real power that is likely to hold up over time," the paper said this week.

NYU students, faculty and alumni produced nearly a third of the book s 85 essays, profiles and stories. There were about 150 submissions, all told.

Of the 27 NYU-affiliated pieces accepted, 17 appeared in Dispatches first. Faculty contributors include Jay Rosen, Robert Manoff, Mary Quigley, Mitchell Stephens, Ellen Willis, Andrew Ross and Karen Houppert; student contributors include Monica Haim, Aisha Khan, Nuno Andrade, Anna Arutunyan and Natalie Stevens.

Among other contributors are journalism department faculty members Susie Linfield and Todd Gitlin; students Kate Bolick, Caleb Frazier, Carolyn Lee and Robyn Shepherd; and alum David Mindich.

Buy 09/11 8:48