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.
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.
Once this sailing school's fleet was a symbol of New Yorkers' newfound joy in the waterfront. Now the boats, covered in a thick layer of ash, float idly in an abandoned cove, as the owner struggles to keep his business afloat. Click here to read
Never leave the dead girl
A resident advisor put in charge of 1,200 students living in the
shadow of the World Trade Center wonders: how could anyone possibly be
prepared for this? Click here to read
Homeless man loses home
The twin towers had been the roof over Richard Morelli's head, the
walls of his bedroom, and the neighborhood where he'd made his home since
the 1980s. On Sept. 12, he tried to go back. He wanted to say hello to the
guys at Firehouse No. 10, and check on his friend Alicia. He was rebuffed,
by police officers guarding his home in every direction. Click here to read
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
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
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