Memories: September 11 Digital Archive

Teacher's Lounge Archives

Mr. Scheinfeldt is the director of The September 11 Digital Archive .

As I finish setting up for the meeting I dial Nancy, my fiancée, on the cell phone. We always try to speak just before I start teaching a seminar because we know it will be hard to connect during the day. I look at my watch and note that it is about 8:45. As the phone is ringing, I hear what sounds like a low flying airplane outside. I remark to myself, out loud, "that's strange for a plane to fly low enough to hear inside a building down here." Nancy answers the phone and I hear what sounds like a loud backfire of a truck outside the window. I look out the window. I think the first thing Nancy hears me say, almost at a scream is "Oh my God! The World Trade Center just blew up!" I am looking at the flash of fire and smoke from the south part of the building and see the west side blow out. "Oh my God! Oh my God!" (911digitalarchive.org/stories/details/48)

As soon the news of September 11 broke, comparisons with Pearl Harbor became commonplace. One year later, these comparisons are now the subject of some scrutiny. Yet even putting the substantive debates aside, it must be agreed that from the historian's point of view, there are important practical differences between the two events - differences that speak to the nature of the sources.

The historical record of 1941 was made almost entirely of paper - government reports, letters from home, photographic prints and newspaper headlines - stuff that lasts. Not so in 2001. September 11 was not only the first major event of the twenty-first century. It was also the first major event of the Internet age. For the very first time, people experienced history as it unfolded on their computers - at work and in their classrooms. Much of the record of September 11, 2001 sits on our hard drives and servers. Without a concerted effort by historians and archivists, these fragile materials will surely be lost - even at the touch of a delete key. The September 11 Digital Archive (www.911digitalarchive.org) is working to prevent that.

Organized by the American Social History Project at the City University of New York and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and funded by a major grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the September 11 Digital Archive uses electronic media to collect, preserve and present the history of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the public responses to them. In particular the Archive works to collect stories, emails, digital images and other "born-digital" materials relating to the attacks of September 11. Additionally the Archive organizes and annotates the most important web-based September 11 resources and develops online materials to contextualize and teach about the events. The Archive is quickly becoming the premier resting place for the vast digital record precipitated by September 11.

…What I saw next happened so quickly I barely had time to react. I noticed that the lobby of Tower One almost instantly filled up with a rolling brown cloud from floor to ceiling. I stopped walking when all of a sudden - BOOM - the entire lobby exploded. The revolving doors in front of me just vaporized. Amazingly nothing hit me. There was a second of silence as everyone started to comprehend what happened. And then the all the running and screaming started. I have never run so fast in my life. Working in that building we had always known that if terrorists ever came back to the World Trade Center, they were going to finish what they started. So even though I was running away, I was convinced I wasn't going to make it out of the mall alive. As we all started to run, a lady next to me fell down. I stopped to help her but she got up on her own. So I continued to run. (911digitalarchive.org/stories/details/935)

Launched on March 11, 2002 - the six-month anniversary of the September 11 attacks - the Archive's first six months have been an unqualified success. Over 10,000 emails, over 2000 first hand stories and over 3000 digital images have been preserved and permanently archived. A wide-ranging series of partnerships has been formed with other institutions, including the New-York Historical Society, the Museum of the City of New York, the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania's Heinz Center, the American Association of Museums, and NPR's Sonic Memorial. The Archive is especially pleased to have been selected the Smithsonian's designated repository for digital materials relating to September 11 and its upcoming exhibition, "Bearing Witness to History", which opens on September 11, 2002. In this capacity, the Archive is collecting the first-hand, September 11 recollections of visitors to the Smithsonian's exhibit halls and website, both in text and digital audio.

I work for a company that is headquartered in 7 WTC. I was attending a quarterly meeting that began with dinner on 9/10. I drove from my office in Philadelphia, parked my car at the Millennium Hilton, just east of the twin towers. That was the last I ever saw of my car. (911digitalarchive.org/stories/details/1425)

The collection as a whole is both extensive and varied, and includes digital materials from all the directly affected groups - rescue and recovery workers, victims' families, survivors from inside the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and members of other affected communities. Just as important, however, are contributions from everyday Americans and people around the world. One of the things that sets the September 11 Digital Archive apart from other historical repositories are the large numbers of spontaneous grassroots contributions, things such as personal stories of September 11 and pieces of digital art work.

 My colleague and I were having coffee, talking with one of the brokers, it was about 8:45 a.m., when all of a sudden the building seemed to shake! I could see debris falling down across the westside windows. At that point the building swayed and it felt like the whole thing might be going over. I felt nothing but dread. Then the building seemed to right itself. People were getting out of their seats and heading for the stairs. I remember going back to my office to get my wallet, cell phone and car keys. By the time I got back to my office my department had evacuated. I went back out to the trading floor to see if I could find my two brothers but they had gone too.(911digitalarchive.org/stories/details/1378)

Unlike traditional 'brick and mortar' archives, there are no physical limits to the size of the September 11 Digital Archive's collection. If it needs to expand, it just adds more disk space. This means that no digital object is too trivial for the Archive to accept. Future historians will undoubtedly find interest in the story of how ordinary Americans experienced the attacks of September 11 and their effects, and the Archive strongly encourages everyone to contribute his or her first-hand story, digital image or email. All contributions may be submitted at 911digitalarchive.org or emailed to info@911digitalarchive.org.

From: John
Date: 10:59 am September 11, 2001
Subject: I'm OK

Hi everyone,

Just to let you all know that I am OK. I'm in DC right now and been told this system will be shut down ASAP. Maybe this will get out first. I can't leave DC right now, and been told to stay where I am. Don't know when I'll head home, but could be tomorrow or maybe later even. Anyway, I'm fine and staying put for now. Just been told to send this because it's being shut down.

Love John

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 19:37:34 -0000
To: sept11info@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Sympathies from Turkey
From: sayin2001@y...

I feel very sorry because of the wild terrorist attack to NY and DC. I have listened to declaration of NY Mayor that he is afraid number of deaths may be above 10.000. As a Turkish citizen I know what terror means, from which we suffered a lot during 70s. And during 90s PKK terror had taken more than 30.000 lives from both sides.

I am sure that USA will work now toward the establishment of an international antiterror organization, and the crime potential against humanity and democratic regimes will be taken under control.

Please know that I personally and my wife Meral and even my 12-year old twin-boys feel very very sorry for American people and pray for survivors. (911digitalarchive.org/sept11info/highlight15.txt)



Illustration by Sabrina Krewin.

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Howard Scott Pearlman - 9/11/2002

" The Psalm Of Nations "

It is much too late to endeavor

They said it could never be done

Then we turned and peaced things together

And from the many, we made one.

Howard Scott Pearlman

Copyright ©2002 Howard Scott Pearlman

Howard Pearlman - 9/11/2002

We The American People Demand that a Special Commission be started that investigates how 4 planes could be hijaked and be flying at one time without the US airforce dispatching intercepts.

There was a least one hour between the time the planes went offcourse and the time they crashed yet not one of the four planes had any escorts to direct and force their movements.

From: "Magginkat" Date: Mon Sep 9, 2002 9:43 pm Subject: Re: [DiehardDems]



Howard, I've said it once and I'll say it again. There is no way that the picture shown of bu$h on AF One is the real thing. That bird surfaced months later. No way would the republican party or anyone named bu$h would allow you to see a real picture of bu$h on AF One that day.

Think about it..... this little kiddie type man was being led around by the nose by the likes of Cheney, Rove, & Rummy. They knew that this disaster was going to happen & allowed it to happen. IN addition someone high up....bu$h, Cheney, (?) gave an order that caused the military (interceptor jets) to "stand down" for over an hour while these planes hit their targets.

Take this from someone who has been in the military and married a military man who was with the old Strategic Air Command (SAC). These pilots are always on standby and are always airborne in less than ten minutes. NO WAY would they sit idly by while attacks like this was happening unless ordered to do so.

Now back to bu$h and why you will never see a real picture of him from 9-11-01. Bu$h went AWOL.... he flitted from base to base worried that DC was about to be hit by heaven only knows what, so we were told. I say there is a different story and we may or may not learn about it in our life times. That story goes like this:

This cowardly little, wimpy, dry drunk was literally shaking in his boots on Sept 11 and wetting his pants uncontrollably when he realized the enormity of what he had allowed to happen. So he ordered his pilot to fly and fly and fly. Bu$h was on his way out of the country. He was a wreck. He was quickly locked in the private rooms of AF One with whatever baby sitter/ watchdogs who were with him that day...... Karen Hughes? Rove?

It took hours for bu$h to be sedated enough to be convinced to return to DC. He probably also drank more than a little & cried little a little boy who had his favorite bicycle stolen. You see at this point bu$h thought it was all over. He was worried about himself and wondering how his daddy could possibly keep him out of jail this time.

I say that in the end someone had to hog tie and sedate him to force him to return to DC. That's the reason you will never see a real picture of him on that day aboard AF One. It is also the reason that he locked himself in the White House for 3 days afterward until his medication was properly adjusted & then...............

He fly to NY and climbed up in that rubble pile with his bullhorn and started that sick cheerleading act which we have had to endure for one year now............

IN the meantime.... we have witnessed one horrible attack by a giant pretzel and more times with mysterious swollen lips, bruises, etc........... the drunk is at it again and he is a mean drunk.

Will this country survive this miserable excuse for a human being?

Maggie----- Original Message ----- From: Howard Scott Pearlman To: Sent: Monday, September 09, 2002 3:36 PM Subject: [DiehardDems] REMEMBER WHEN....BUSH RAN AND HID...On Sept. 11, 2001 Subject:


GW Bush ran from Sarasota, Fl. to an Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska to "get out of harms way." He had a picture of him on Air Force One showing him "getting our of harms way" and sold it to campaign donors. Who would want a picture of their leader running like a coward instead of taking charge of the disaster?

Radioleft Terri's Political Gem 6666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666 Cheney Worried About Contempt of Court Charge Friday the 13th 2002 Pushes For a War in Iraq 444444444444444444444444444444444444444444444 On Septemb

pietsa - 12:18am Sep 10, 2002 EST (# 1566 of 1586)
"The more terrorists that we killed the happier we were." Ian Douglas Smith

howardbpearlman - 10:47pm Sep 9, 2002 EST (# 1565 of 1565)

Hey idiot,

This is the African politics forum. Go spread your kak elsewhere.....

gintaras_2k - 04:20am Sep 10, 2002 EST (# 1567 of 1586)

Fantastic posts, wahday! They really hit the nail on the head.

In regard to Zimbabwe, the opposition political party has bought corn from South Africa but is having a difficult time having it cleared through Zimbabwe customs. The last thing Mugabe wants is for the opposition to be seen as the benefactors in this present crisis.