when the walls fell
about this site
When I first began to work on this project, I thought that I was finally ready to write about my individual experience on 9.11. And I guess everyone else involved did, too—every person I contacted about contributing responded with enthusiasm, eager to talk about their personal experiences and share in the experiences of others.

But when I sat down to actually start composing the pieces I was contributing to this effort—this introduction, the "about this site" page, and my own personal essay—I started to encounter roadblocks in virtually every paragraph. Ideas and images that seemed so clear in my mind became blurred and incoherent when I tried to commit them to paper; the neat wrapper of comprehension that I had used to contain the events in my memory began to unravel as I tried to revisit my emotions on that day, and my ability to think about the events that occurred on 9.11 in any rational way began to disintegrate. As much as I wanted to testify to what I had seen and heard and felt, I found myself almost completely tongue-tied.

As I began to receive submissions from other contributors, it became clear to me that I was not alone. Everyone was taking a lot longer to finish their pieces than they had anticipated, and no one was really happy with their essay. Each author seemed almost apologetic for their submission, even the ones that I thought were really strong. Everyone seemed to think that their work was missing something vital, and even though they were all aware of the incompleteness, each writer had eventually chosen to leave their essay as it was, as if a critical part of each writer's experience was coming to the realization that words simply fail when trying to capture events of this magnitude.

This trend mirrored my dissatisfaction with my own writings. Language just won't hold the things we want to communicate about the attacks; no matter how elegantly put together, sentences and paragraphs are simply inadequate vessels for our ideas. In addition, the complex feelings and emotions that we all have about the events that transpired on 9.11 are often enmeshed in trivial, mundane, everyday details, like watching tv, or listening to the radio, or doing our jobs, and that makes it that much harder to write about them.

Even though our natural response might be to stay silent because our dumb incomprehension of the events makes it seemingly impossible to say anything meaningful, or because remembering that day forces us to relive the horror and emptiness that we all felt, our testimony is nevertheless required. To remain silent is to allow others to speak for us, or worse yet, to have no one speaking about the events of 9.11 at all.


Chris Pace

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