In my teleseminar this week, I talked about 9-11 and the post-9-11 culture as one of the pivotal influences in society’s need to connect through stories.
Back in February, I read a blog entry about the popular storytelling venue The Moth. The blogger, my Twitter friend Will Coley, wrote: “[People] wonder if something is going on in our culture right now; something about sharing heartfelt stories and reconnecting with each other.”
I believe the event that sparked that need happened eight years ago today.
I believe that 9-11 impressed on all of us how precious each life — each story — is, yet how fleeting. You can probably all recall how that terrible event made everyone reach out for connection with both loved ones and strangers. The day itself is something that anyone who lived through it will always have stories about.
In the past few years, my husband and I have established a tradition of watching the movie Love Actually every Christmas Eve. I think of that film as the quintessential post-9/11 movie, and it’s a collection of stories about people who are all connected. The movie also references 9-11.
I continue to be fascinated, perhaps morbidly, by the idea of a post-9/11 culture, a notion first suggested to me by an art historian speculating about what would come after postmodernism.
First came the stories told on that horrific day … the story told by Jeff Jarvis, whom I knew for a couple of years as a child … the story told by a former student of mine, who was in one of the Twin Towers for training for his first job after college graduation. Here’s a small bit of his story:
What you saw on TV does not give you a very good description of what I saw when I looked up. I was so amazed, shocked, and scared, it is hard to describe. As I was walking away with the crowd a girl next to me started to cry uncontrollably, and I looked to my right to see what was wrong. A sight I wish to never see again and that I hope none of you ever have to see was the large pool of deep red blood in the road with ladies’ shoes all over the place.
I truly believe that day triggered a need to tell our stories. To matter. To make a difference. To share the human experience. A year before 9-11, Mark Hansen wrote: “Only by preserving the value of our short-term human perspective will we retain the ability to invest our lives with significance,” but the words take on even more meaning post-9-11.
“Like just about everything else,” noted Mallory Jensen in 2003, “blogging changed forever on September 11, 2001. The destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon created a huge appetite on the part of the public to be part of The Conversation, to vent and analyze and publicly ponder or mourn. Many, too, were unsatisfied with what they read and saw in the mainstream media.”
Today, I see that many folks on Facebook are sharing their stories about this day. That probably happened in years past, but I don’t remember such a proliferation of stories and reverent remembrances.
And the National September 11 Memorial & Museum site, Make History, is collecting stories, videos, and photos submitted by people who experienced 9/11 with the added dimension of Google Street View.
What is your 9-11 story?