At last count there more than 63 billion sites* about September 11. These 11 made us stop, click and think.
By Michael Slenske
Michael Slenske writes SMITH’s Back Home from Iraq Column
What if - as ur-blogger Andrew Sullivan imagined recently for New York magazine - 9/11 had never happened? If Al Gore were president? If Al Qaeda unleashed attacks on 30 separate New York subway stops (instead of four planes)? If the war on terror were more than a photo-op in Afghanistan? Would any of us be any safer? Maybe.
But playing “what if” games five years ex post facto is a thorny proposition: 9/11 did happen. And whether the catastrophic events of that quiet fall morning did or did not unfold as we’ve been informed by the administration, the damage has been done. In part, because the blogosphere - much like the mainstream media - let its eyes (and words) drift away from the hallowed grounds - into the rabbit holes of TomKat, Plamegate, John Mark Karr, and others - over the past five years.
Luckily, there are a handful of personal media movers who’ve kept a constant vigil over the sites, and some who’ve risen from their ashes, to remind us what it is our troops are still dying for.
Where Were You?
Were you “nine months pregnant sleeping on a couch next to my mom,” “engaged in a sexual act and couldn’t go once you heard of the carnage,” or “in class…facing the towers” as they fell? No? Well, some folks were, and they shared those experiences on Wherewereyou.org , a user-generated project started by three teenagers (Geoffrey Hick, CA ; Lane Collins, NC; Marie Pelkey, VT) on September 15, 2001. Over a year the trio collected more than 2500 9/11 recollections from around the world, which are still as raw and powerful today as they were five years ago. Feeling left out? Don’t. The similarly titled Wherewereyouon911.com - which has collected more than one thousand personal stories since its December 2001 launch - is still taking submissions.
Kristen Breitweiser on HuffPo
If you’re the scorn of Ann Coulter you must be doing something right. At least that’s true in the case of 9/11 widow-turned-HuffPo blogger Kristen Breitweiser. Since spring of 2005 the “Jersey Girl” has filed extensive posts on everything from Giuliani intruding on the victim’s impact hearings at the Moussaoui trial (”Which family member did Guiliani lose in the attacks?”) to the NSA wiretapping program (”Our intelligence agencies held a treasure trove of intelligence on the 9/11 hijackers, intelligence that was gathered through their initially unencumbered surveillance. President Bush should busy himself by investigating why that information was not capitalized upon to stop the 9/11 attacks.”). Be sure to pick up her new memoir Wake-Up Call (complete with a note to Ann) this month.
The Art Project
Everyone has an opinion about 9/11, but how many communicated them via images? For those of the visual persuasion there’s theArtproject.net’s virtual exhibition, which gauged the artists’ response to terrorism (from September 2001 to December 2002). While closed to submissions, this provocative disastoplex (of paintings, sculpture, and photo installations, complete with image-based call-and-answer discussion boards) continues to prompt dialogue by remaining online indefinitely.
In the last five years over 250 proper 9/11 memorials (incorporating WTC steel) have popped up around the world, except, of course, at Ground Zero. This clearinghouse of 9/11 commemoration - from Shanksville to New Zealand - is courtesy of mountaineering guru Roger Rowlett, who keeps track of all the latest memorial news and scandals. In other words, Michael Arad and Larry Silverstein must hate it.
Flickr: Post 9/11 Project
In order to see “how life has changed - or not - since 9/11,” every year on the anniversary of the attacks this community group calls on Flickr members to share as many words and photos from their September 11 experiences as possible over a 24-hour blitz. Get ready for the deluge.
Paul Thompson and Matthew Everett’s 9/11 Timeline
The Wiki-like Cooperativeresearch.org calls itself “an experiment in open-content civic journalism.” The jewel of this spot is an extensive September 11 timeline - which pulls material from the 9/11 Commission Report, American Airlines employees and 80 new posts, among others, from the two researchers - and is now the subject of the documentary 9/11 Press For Truth. If you can’t slog through all 2216 entries in one sitting there are plenty of diversions on the CR’s wide-ranging Iraq and Katrina timelines.
The 2996 Project
Started by L.A.-based writer D. Chancellor Roe, the 2996 Project aims to “join together 2,996 volunteer bloggers on September 11, 2006 for a tribute to the victims of 9/11…by remembering their lives, and not by remembering their murderers.” Among the participants are National Center for Public Policy Research prez Amy Ridenour and hawkish blogger Michelle Malkin.
Firehouse magazine’s site posts audio, video, photo, and blog entries - from initial radio dispatches by a Brooklyn firehouse to news that 283 WTC rescue workers have developed cancer (33 have died) since the attacks - in their 9/11 news section. In the coming week the site will reopen their “Victim Database” and serve as a Ground Zero for first responder bulletins from the last five years.
“The rebuilding process has been marred by scandal, controversy, and squabbles over power. I just wish that the hole in the ground can be filled by something worthy of the site sooner rather than later,” writes this New Jersey legal buff who’s kept a hawkish vigilance (a 164-part series, in fact) over the ongoing “Battle for Ground Zero” since 2004.
“George Bush had better be fucking right” is how IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff begins his war memoir Chasing Ghosts. With 2973 troops already killed in action, and 20,666 wounded it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. Fortunately, Rieckhoff, along with vet-bloggers “Mad Mike” Zacchea, Ray Kimball, and Perry Jefferies, is keeping the administration’s feet to the fire over a war in a country the President, himself, admitted had “nothing” to do with the 9/11 attacks. With any luck they’ll help us avoid a second “2996 Project.”
Perhaps the most widely known of the sites on our list doesn’t disappoint. Directed by Imagine Entertainment (Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code) president Jim Whitaker, Project Rebirth has been documenting the resurrection of Ground Zero - with six 35mm time-lapse cameras - since March 11, 2002. In that time the crew has assembled an extensive news archive - from recent pieces in the Times about EPA whistleblowers exposing the danger of the site’s dust to a 2005 editorial from Freedom Tower architect Daniel Libeskind. For overhead shots - of Ground Zero and the Pentagon - check out SpaceImaging.com’s “September 11: One Year Viewed from Space” feature. While they only offer a yearâ€™s perspective, its satellite, IKONOS, was the only hi-res commercial camera in orbit over WTC and the Pentagon immediately following the attacks.