by Elizabeth Silkes
International Coalition of Sites of Conscience
In the days and weeks that followed the attacks of September 11, 2001, I joined New Yorkers and the world in grappling with the horror of what had happened and bracing for the response that surely would come. During those dark days that lasted longer than many of us could have imagined, and for many will continue without end, it was the New York Times “Portraits of Grief” that allowed me to step for a moment into the lives of those who were lost—to join them at their son’s little league games or their recent summer weddings or their beloved home gardens. As readers, we had the privilege of learning what gave them joy, what comforted them, what made them proud. And in reading about these everyday moments in their lives, we were able to connect in a simple yet profound way not only with each of the victims but with their loved ones and, ultimately, with each other.
Because Sites of Conscience around the world share the past through personal stories—stories of deep tragedy and stories of extraordinary triumph—visitors to these Sites can relate to the past in personal and profound ways. In learning one person’s story, her journey from bystander to victim to survivor to agent for change, we gain a new understanding of the events that changed her life.
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