This site archives a collection of essays, photographs, poems, and artwork created within the weeks following September 11, 2001. Below is information about the project and its organizers, along with a copy of the letter that sparked the undertaking.
9/11 Though Our Eyes is a nonprofit, volunteer documentary project started a decade ago in response to September 11. Days after the terrorist attacks, Jenna M. McKnight, a 24-year-old newspaper reporter in Indiana, sent out a letter to friends and family, asking them to share their thoughts on the tragedy. Her request quickly spread, and she ended up receiving more than 100 contributions from around the globe. The material included handwritten letters by school children, photos of the collapsing WTC towers, and several essays by people who had lost loved ones.
With the help of friends, Jenna presented the material on a website and in a self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. In 2002, she printed 200 copies of the book, distributed it to contributors, and put the project to bed.
In honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Jenna is republishing all of the material she collected on this website. Her goal is to provide a clear picture of what everyday citizens worldwide were doing and thinking in the days following September 11.
Jenna M. McKnight is a journalist based in New York City. An Arizona native, she received a B.S. in journalism from Northern Arizona University and an M.A. in arts journalism from Syracuse University. Today, she is the deputy news director at an architecture magazine.
On September 11, 2001, Jenna was living in Indiana and working as a daily newspaper reporter. She pursued this independent, volunteer project in her free time.
Throughout the course of the project, Jenna received help from several friends, including Marco Bertacche (who created the original website), Sarah Heames Patterson, Sara Slack, Rico Mei, and Patric Tengelin. This site, 9/11 Through Our Eyes, is administered by Jenna. Her sister, Jamie McKnight Strecker, manages a companion Facebook page. We can be reached at email@example.com.
16 September 2001
Bonjour avec amour
Ciao con amore
Hallo mit Liebe
Hello com amor
Hola con amante
Hello with love …
My dearest companions.
One cannot simply sit still in the wake of such horror and such beauty. And who knows what lies ahead.
I have a proposal for you – a request for something meaningful. Please read on.
It’s been awhile since I’ve spoken to a few of you. It is unfortunate these dire circumstances are prompting this reunion (e.g. last week’s terrorist attacks on America), but tragedy often reminds us of how precious our companions really are.
Although you are my friends, most of you are strangers to one another. I can assure you,however, you are just friends who haven’t met. You are people of integrity, wisdom and compassion – people who have impacted my life, earned my respect, inspired me to look at the world through different sets of eyes.
You represent many different cultures: Australian, German, Italian, Belgian, French, Danish, Haitian, English, Scottish, Native American, Canadian, American … In America alone, this e-mail will reach New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Nashville … Indiana, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, among other places I’m surely forgetting (not to mention, I have a hard time keeping tabs on some of my bohemian buddies!).
You are mothers, fathers, siblings, children … impassioned activists, staunch conservatives, artists, surfers, accountants, rock climbers, computer specialists, musicians, journalists, naturalists, industrialists, educators, nurses … you get the point.
I am blessed to have such a vast network of phenomenal people in my life. I am thankful for that everyday, especially now.
Last week’s catastrophe deeply penetrated my spirit – some of you even lost a friend. My heart is bleeding for you, for all of the victims and their loved ones.
My heart is bleeding for all of humanity.
This is not just an American tragedy. It is a frightening reminder that our global civilization is still punctuated with a primitive sense of hatred and intolerance. We are farther away from peace than I ever imagined. Perhaps I was naive.
I want to express my gratitude for the sincere showering of empathy from those overseas (many thanks to those who sent me e-mails of concern). The American public – especially in the past two decades – has often failed to look beyond its own borders. I, personally, am very thankful for the political and civilian support we’ve received from other countries. It is touching and encouraging.
And now, for my proposal.
More than ever, I feel we need to hear each other’s voices, to feel the pulse of the global village and not just the pulse of our own distinct community. My vision is this: a compilation of essays about this event from across the world, written by you. One hundred words or 5,000 words – I don’t care about the length. I only care you write with honesty. Let your heart be your ink well.
I will then compile these essays into a report/book and send each of you a copy. There is no expense to you, beyond a few profound moments of your time. And I can only imagine we all have sentiments begging for release.
Write whatever you want – write of your outrage, sadness, disinterest, curiosity, disgust, fear, maybe even satisfaction. Whatever. There is no “right” way to think or feel about this.Exercise your freedom.
As for the language … and this is hard … please try to send a copy in English. However, a copy in your native tongue would be wonderful, too. If you can’t write it in English, I will find a translator. (By the way, if this e-mail is too difficult to read, please write me back and I will explain in Euro-English or very bad French).
I plan to include photographs in this report … pictures of both of you and of scenes around the country/the world. I already have “gorgeous!!” photos of most of you, and I’ve asked several people to take snapshots of life in America following last week’s attack. Any photo contributions would be great.
And please, pass this request along to your friends. I am excited to learn what people around the world think about this event – about the future. We can get a taste of the global sentiment from the media (television, newspapers), but this would be so authentic, so personal.
And please don’t feel pressured or burdened by this request. Write what you can.
Please send your comments via e-mail or snail mail. Please include your current address.
I hate to do this, but how about a deadline? End of September. It’s best to capture the sentimentwhen it is still raw.
How raw it is.
Thanks for your support. My love and respect for all of you escape words.
Embrace the moment, embrace each other.