On Hearing the September 11th 911 Calls

On Hearing the September 11th 911 Calls


Today the city of New York released many of the 911 tapes from September 11th. Personally, I’ve never fully recovered from that day and had not planned on listening to the calls, even though the victims voices have been bleeped out and only the operators can be heard. But they played several minutes on NPR this evening and I ended up listening.

It was difficult. The operators were trying so hard to help but there was nothing they could do. Their information was faulty, the situation was catastrophic and so, mainly, they just offered compassion and assurances that it would be alright. Of course, what makes the tapes so incredibly painful is that nothing would be alright. As far as we know, all the callers from inside the towers died that day. And there was nothing the 911 operators could do to help.

Four-and-a-half years after September 11th and that day can still cause me to shudder, can still bring tears to my eyes. So much has happened since then. So much division. Anger. Here and there a little hope�but mainly the crushing sense that “it will never be the same� lingers.

There are very few points in history where one single event, one single day changed the world. But September 11th did. And hearing those 911 calls reminds me why.

  • Lewis

    A fascinating essay, “On the Return of History”, posted on americandigest.org. A good read.