|Child's Drawing of Twin Towers, Library of Congress|
Stunned by the news from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we held each other close, took stock of friends and family, and wondered how we would ever do anything routine again. The next day I received an email from an archivist at the Library of Congress. It was an invitation sent out nationwide to folklorists, documentarians, and ethnographers to record the moment in which we all stood, bewildered. "Record the reactions of people on the street," it instructed. This was like a call to arms for the Salt faculty and staff. The Institute's very mission is to teach students how to document the complex world around them under even the most difficult circumstances. The archivist explained that this request mimicked one sixty years early at the bombing of Pearl Harbor when a Folklife Archivist called for folklorists to record "man on the street" responses.
The Salt Institute responded to the call. Our students fanned out across the city, clutching their microphones and photo lenses to capture and share the grief that consumed us all. One of my many memories of those days was burning a CD of their collective work - their recordings of tearful and brilliant reflections by Maine residents - and tucking it into an envelope addressed to the Library of Congress. I sealed it with a wish that, in some small way, we were contributing to an understanding of a moment that confounded us all. Ten years later, the Library of Congress has created a Witness and Response Exhibit from the submissions that poured in from around the country.