(Photo: The view from the World Trade Center observatory, as forever lost as the city I once called home. Credit: terraxplorer2.)
I am a native New Yorker who was in midtown Manhattan on 9/11. I’ve blogged about my experience on that day, but I rarely talk about it. Start telling me your 9/11 story–as many Chicagoans were wont to do when I first moved here–and I’ll probably change the subject.
But on Friday, May 21st, I found myself with the unexpected opportunity to be interviewed by the nonprofit oral-history project, StoryCorps. The project has a permanent recording studio in New York and several mobile recording trailers that travel the country, allowing families and individuals to record precious memories and life experiences for posterity–all of which become a part of the national archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
Late on Thursday, May 20th, I learned that StoryCorps’ shiny, silver Airstream trailer was in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, where it will remain through June 26th as part of the Historias Initiative to archive the stories of Latino families in America. I knew that StoryCorps also has a September 11th Initiative, created to allow people who were affected by 9/11 to share their stories as well. For a while now, I’ve pondered participating in it. On a lark, I checked the available StoryCorps interview dates in Chicago, figuring they’d be all booked up. Much to my surprise, in the middle of the mobile studio’s busily booked schedule was one opening–coming up in 14 hours.
So with barely time to go to bed, get up, get ready, and get there, much less think about what I was about to do (which was probably a good thing), the next day I sat down with two welcoming StoryCorps interviewers in the cozy mobile studio and told my story. The most amazing parts of it for me were telling it to two twenty-something adults who both currently live in New York, but didn’t arrive until the New York I was telling them about had been changed forever…and learning through the telling just how deeply I really am still affected by 9/11.
It took me seven years to realize I’m a Chicagoan now, part of the post-9/11 New York City diaspora, because of that day. It still takes my breath away how well I remember my long journey home over the Queensboro Bridge and down Queens Bouelavard. And I went away from the interview realizing I’m in Chicago because it reminds me of the softer, gentler New York City for which I still mourn. (And, yes, there was such a thing–before security searches and submachine guns became permanent fixtures of the Big Apple’s urban landscape.)
If you’re so inspired, you can browse here to (at least try and) schedule an interview for Historias or any other reason while StoryCorps remains in Chicago, or browse here to make an interview appointment at any StoryCorps fixed or mobile facility.
Finally, you can hear my 9/11 story by clicking the play button or download link, below. It and all submissions to the September 11th Initiative will eventually be housed in a special archive at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum, currently under construction at Ground Zero. I’m proud to finally have had the guts to record it. And if anyone manages to find meaning in it, then it was worth showing up…
Mike Doyle September 11th Story (StoryCorps) | 41:04m | 37.6MB | download (mp3)