9/11 Oral Historian Hears Tales of Terror, Stories of Courage


We tend to go through a lot of tissues around here. I often joke that the 9/11 Memorial should partner with Kleenex, or I should invest in commercial tissue stock. I am one of two oral historians at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.  I've conducted more than 150 interviews that all connect to this very heavy, and often, emotional event. I've listened intently as stories are retold by family members of those who were killed, survivors, first responders, Lower Manhattan residents and school teachers. These are only a few. The list goes on.

While my job is essentially to ask questions with the hope of eliciting meaningful answers for our archive and historical exhibition, there's one question that I am always asked, “How can you listen to so many sad stories all day long?  How do you do this?”

It will always be heartbreaking to listen to a mother talk about losing her child.  And  it will always be difficult to ask people to talk about traumatic, haunting memories. But I will say that while 9/11 was a day of absolute terror, what I do is not about the “bad guys," it is about the “good guys."  I listen to how people came together to help strangers, I hear humble people talk about extreme acts of courage, stories about humanity at its best, and I meet people who picked themselves up despite unthinkable loss, and moved forward because that is what they can do to fight back.  There is nothing more uplifting and inspiring than that.  It is my honor to record these stories.

These powerful memories and stories will form our exhibitions, bring life to this difficult history and let museum visitors know the individuals who were killed.  My team is committed to doing this as thoroughly as we possibly can, even if it does mean we will continue to hand out tissues, or sometimes use them ourselves.

By Jenny Pachucki, Oral Historian for the 9/11 Memorial Museum

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