Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Oral Histories from 9/11 Nearing Completion

More than a decade after the terrorist attacks, the collection of stories continues to accumulate. Narratives of the happenings and emotions from the morning of September 11 are being compiled by a group of oral historians to create a massive collection of accounts from that day in Somerset County.

Kathie Shaffer said to this point, more than 780 interviews have been recorded, including stories from those who were first on the scene, those in the media who responded, and the family members who received calls from loved ones as Flight 93 went down in a field in Shanksville.

"One of the questions I often ask is, 'How did your day begin on Sept 11?'" Shaffer said. "It's a very simple question, but in almost every instance, I see that people are immediately transported back to that day in their life and they remember it. It's very vivid."

Shaffer said it's hard to choose one story from the bunch.

"All of these individual stories really are like pieces of a mosaic, and they can stand alone," Shaffer said. "They are beautiful stories, these individual accounts and remembrances, but putting them all together really paints a complete picture."

The project is so large that it's been a slow process. Shaffer said the team is now in the painstaking process of transcribing the interviews, with each story having an average length of two to two and a half hours. Shaffer hopes a preliminary set of stories will be ready for the opening of the planned visitor's center at the Flight 93 Memorial in 2014.

She calls it a "blessing" to work on this project.

"When someone opens and shares with you their experience and probably some of their most intimate feelings about their experience — what happened to them that day, how they were changed — it's very much a privilege to hear and also to help them record this," Shaffer said.

The goal is to create a documentation collection for research and education that compliments exhibits at the planned Flight 93 Memorial.