9/11: What Does It Mean to Memorialize?

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It is hard to believe that 15 years has passed since September 11, 2001. The events on that day started a new era in human history and have shaped the lives of everyone living today.

Late last year, I had the pleasure of working with  a group of fellow M.A. Media Studies graduate students at The New School for Public Engagement creating an audio podcast about the 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero.

Much debate ensued among our eight member group. There are always mixed feelings when taking on the story of an event that had so much impact on the United States, and the world. While 9/11 was 14 years in the past (while we were working on this project), for many of us our own feelings were still very raw. We all remembered exactly where we were that day and what we were doing.  For some of us it was our first visit to Ground Zero since before the events, for others it was our first visit since the immediate aftermath. Some of our team were on the other side of the world when the towers fell, while others were right down the street.  Revisiting 9/11 was an emotional experience for all of us, independent of nationality, religious or political views. Among our small group we had team members from at least three different continents, with different religious and political beliefs, so finding “the story”, the story that we wished to tell as a group, was not an easy task.

Every member of our team visited the Memorial and Ground Zero in their own time. We felt that since our individual backgrounds affect how we see and feel about the memorial, each individual would have their own reaction and see their own story evolve from the visit.  We each took notes, four team members recorded ambient sounds and others conducted interviews with other indivisuals at the memorial.

It was clear during our first team meeting after our individual visits that one big question stood out. “What Does It Mean To Memorialize?” As students of media, we felt that was the most important question we could answer.

The 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero is an experiment in memorialization: an ever evolving memorial, grave site, and reflection space that to this day is still evolving. It is one of the first of its kind that seems to be curated in a way that acts as a time machine for those visiting. Technology is used to create interactive aural and visual experiences that allow visitors to attach to the experiences of the victims and to New York City while creating a space for them to contribute their own opinion and story. The remnant steel facades, the weeping slurry wall, the original momument, the bent and beaten columns, all contribute and stand as symbols of resistance. Sound fills every space: whether it’s voices of survivors describing their memories, recorded sound of the towers falling, or the echoes of tears being shed. Our team, all left with a feeling that we had travelled back to that day, where New York City and the world suddenly stopped.

 

The Podcast: 9/11 What Does It Mean To Memorialize?

Research & Media Acquisition: Alexandra Dennis-Renner, Nykea Bolton, Laura Avila Cordero
Sound Recordists: Celina Arslanian, Sara Godoy Brito, Lulwah Abdal, Kevin Michael Reed
Script: Kevin Michael Reed, Aaron Dowdy
Narration & Editing: Aaron Dowdy

(parts of this blog post were written by Sara Godoy Brito)

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