VOICES OF 9.11
A People’s Archive (2002 – 2003)
Who gets to tell the story of September 11, 2001?
Voices of 9.11 is a collection of over 500 video testimonies recorded in 2002-2003 in New York City, Shanksville, PA, Washington D.C. and the Pentagon. At a time when language to describe the event was still being formed, the project was explicitly designed to give each individual agency over the story of their own lived experience. Inside a homemade video booth the participant started + stopped their own recording, they could speak for as long or short a time as they wished and in whatever language they felt most comfortable. Together we created this people’s archive of September 11, 2001.
In 2021, Voices of 9.11 was the basis of a feature documentary directed by Bjørn Johnson and David Belton. Memory Box; Echoes of 9/11 premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, aired on MSNBC and is currently screening on the Peacock network.
Voices of 9.11 was developed at here is new york: a democracy of photographs. In 2011 the entire collection was made available to the public online. Today the Voices of 9.11 collection is jointly held by the New-York Historical Society and the September 11 Digital Archive which has initiated a long term plan to donate its entire collection to the Library of Congress for permanent preservation.
View the Voices of 9.11 testimonies.
Art is whatever lowers barriers and creates real communication across impassable barriers. To use it to create passions to fight for an issue is not art, it is the opposite of it, because it is not lowering or transcending barriers. Art is the only thing that can bridge or transcend or transform in real and lasting ways. And that is what it is. It makes connections with others very different from ourselves – – including our enemies and including hidden neglected unknown parts of ourselves that are wakened and drawn forth. – Maryat Lee, Radical Theater
There is a particular kind of hurt when the reality of our lived experience is denied. We grow twisted, bonsai limbs, trying to shape ourselves to a story that will never fit. Droplets of lead steadily fill each pore, a bit uncomfortable at first, until suddenly we find we can’t move our features at all.
In the immediate aftermath of September 11 there was a hush as we stood stark before the enormity of what had happened. Then a rush of sound; sirens, voices, broadcast newscasters and politicians. People trying to be authoritative even when they didn’t really know what had happened themselves.
Certain kinds of stories found amplification. They told of heroism, American can-do spirit. Those who complicated the narrative were quickly silenced. Voices, that spoke of sadness, confusion and searching questions, were held back until we could no longer hear them and forgot that they existed at all.
Grief requires an expanse. The field is filled with the shards of our exploded lives. It is an arduous process to shape the pieces of your story back into something that can be survived. Some people, good people, hard working people, people who are loved, do not make it.
I made Voices of 9.11 because I knew grief. I wanted to create a place where people could be held while doing the necessary work of crafting their story. Where each person’s contribution is a gift that adds to our collective project of humanity and understanding of the world.
I made Voices of 9.11 because I cherish our imperfect union. As a nation we plunged forward in out dated models of revenge and retaliation, missing an opportunity to learn from the expertise of others who have lived experience with terror both abroad and at home. The cost of that missed conversation is all around us.
I am deeply grateful to all the people who bravely shared their story in 2002-2003. I think of you, wonder about your lives and very much hope that you are well and thriving. Thank you for collaborating to make this people’s archive possible.
My heartfelt thanks to all the people who worked so hard behind the scenes to create and sustain Voices of 9.11.
Each of us is already weaving the threads for what happens next in our story. It is a good fight to dream boldly, refusing the co-optation of our imaginative worlds. Our stories hold a wild freedom. They can bust open possibility, reach around the globe, even touch other generations. They never exist in isolation but always reveal a joyous disorder of threads running out and through the stories of others. Shimmering, waving, we tilt into the light of our collective future.
Recordings (2002 – 2003)
Created by Ruth Sergel
NYC Director: Pamela Griffiths
Washington DC/Pentagon: Laura Doggett, Vicki Warren, Lara McPherson
Pennsylvania: Andrea Star Reese
Booth Design: Tim Main
Technical Design & Support: Paul Constantine, David Griffiths, Juan Molinari, Steve Robison, Daniel Valdez.
Additional Support: Martha K. Babcock, Maggie Berkvist, Cynthia Dartley, Abigail Feldman, Kerin Ferallo, Karen Jaroneski, Mary Liao, Rosalind Lichter, Brenda English Manes, Jay Manis, Christine McAndrews, Stephanie Schenppe, Deborah Schwartz, Nelly Sidotti, Fernanda Malarazzo Suplicy, Nancy Tongue, Aaron Traub, Mary Traub, Amy Wentz, Mandy Yu.
Thank you to Michael Shulan, Mark Lubell, Charles Traub & all at here is new york: a democracy of photographs.
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Ruth Sergel, Jude Calder, Laura Doggett, Pamela Griffiths, Nancy Tongue.
Translations: Lana Cheung, Sherry Kane, Peter von Salis
Additional Support: Magnus Pind Bjerre, Juan Molinari, Aaron Traub.
The 2011 project to bring all of Voices of 9.11 online is made possible by the generous support of our donors:
Anonymous, Martha Ann Babcock, John Barnes, Suzanne Pred Bass, Therese Baxter, Mary Berke, Maggie Berkvist, Lou Blumengarten, Christina Campanella, Roy Campolongo, Sybil Cohen, Theresa Curtin, Suzanne Epstein, Kerin Ferallo, Carol Fleming, Jörg Fockele, Nicole Franklin, Lyn Gale, Brian Garrick, Marsha Gildin, Steven Harkness, Carol J. Howard, Rose Imperaton, Gloria Jacobs, Allison Kestenbaum, Peilin Kuo, Marvin Kupfer, LuLu LoLo, Laura Lomer, Jay Manis, Lynne McQuaker, Carla Meyer, James Miller, Susan Patner, Lewis Rothenberg, Deborah Schwartz, Eva J von Schweinitz, Laura Shapiro, Andi Sosin, Mark Tabashnick, Judith Treesberg, Sheryl Woodruff, Ellen Yaroshefsky, Anna Yusim, Lori Zaumseil.
How many hours of recordings?
Aproximately 120 hours
Where were the recordings made?
Voices of 9.11 was created at here is new york: a democracy of photographs in two locations: a temporary space on 6th Ave + 42nd Street and at 118 Prince Street. Additional recordings were made at the Staten Island Historical Society. A mobile team traveled to Shanksville, PA. The Voices of 9.11 video booth was at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC in Fall 2002 and inside the Pentagon in January and February 2003.
What is included in each post?
The date of the recording
The location of the recording
The V# of the recording
What’s a V#?
The V# indicates where the recording was made NYC (V0000-V0327), Staten Island (V0400-V0413), Shanksville, PA (V1001-V1010), Washington DC (V2000-V2092), Pentagon (V3000-3133).
What was the technical set up of the video booth?
Download V911 Tech Schematic
You can search for your testimony on the Voices of 9.11 website by typing your name in the search box on the right.
Can I get a digital copy of my testimony?
Yes! We greatly appreciate all who participated in the project. Please contact me to request a copy of your testimony.
I would like to add a written update to my testimony
Please do! Simply email me the text you would like to have added.
Can I get a copy of someone else’s testimony?
No, we only provide digital copies to the people who participated in the project.
I would like to have my testimony removed from the website.
Please contact us and we will remove your testimony.
If you have other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.