The gnawing inside. Our sense of humanity disrupted, the dream of who we are as individuals, as a nation, as citizens of the world. The unanswered questions; the why, the how, the US??
Cut off from others with similar experiences, no wonder it was nearly impossible to translate that day into language.
What can I DO?
HEROES + NOBLE WIDOWS!!
Voices of 9.11 was the only defense I could imagine. Radical because it is so simple. A video booth, a plywood box really. HERE tell your story HERE. Before youTube, before Story Corps, make a video recording of your experience of 9.11. However much time you need to tell your story. No restrictions. You press the start and stop buttons. Any language. Your truth. Now go!
Jump ahead 10 years.
For the anniversary we put all 500+ testimonies online. Watching each one, there is an urge to seek commonality. But there is none. What makes the project a success is multiplicity. Some people who speak in the booth are still stunned. Others rage or cry. Most people are thoughtful, precise. There is no single through line. The tie that binds is the act of testifying, creating layer upon layer of refracted meaning.
But we aren’t finished yet.
People rush the start, hurry it along, try not to take up too much time. But soon breath finds its nature. The lie that our experiences could be contained by mere politics is exposed. There is a rumbling of the ground between us as the rhythm of each story finds its cadence. The stories that had been repressed claim their rightful place in the public realm.
Jump ahead 5 more years.
The fifteenth anniversary. Time is astonishing. There are college freshman with no actual memory of the event. Several of the Voices of 9.11 participants have passed away. Others have changed careers, had children, divorced or married. The planet spins on.
The fragility of life.
That blue blue sky.
The little we could do.
Please watch the testimonies.
Ruth Sergel is an artist + agitator. Her first book See You In the Streets, including a chapter on Voices of 9.11, was published this year by the University of Iowa Press. For more on her work please see: www.streetpictures.org.
Gotham is a blog for independent and professional scholars of
New York City history
We invite submissions
Click below to follow us on social media
using any feed reader
View the material as a broadsheet
See our list of
Visitors looking for
"The Gotham Blotter"
will find it here,
revised as blog posts