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Saving The Stories Of Loved Ones Lost On Sept. 11

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Each year, the oral history project StoryCorps has marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with the voices of those directly affected by the events: wives and husbands, grandparents and friends of those who died that day.

But as StoryCorps founder Dave Isay tells Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep, the outpouring of stories about Sept. 11 initially came as something of a surprise.

"When StoryCorps started, I expected to see a lot of people come to StoryCorps who were dealing with kind of end-of-life issues," Isay says. "What I didn't expect to see were people coming to memorialize loved ones who were lost. And we saw that from the first days after StoryCorps opened eight years ago."

After seeing that StoryCorps was used so often to memorialize loved ones, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum approached StoryCorps with the idea of a partnership and "a powerful way to leave a record of these people's lives," Isay says.

That led to the current project between StoryCorps and the museum: to record one interview for each person who died on Sept. 11, 2001. So far, they've collected more than 1,200 interviews.

"We've had every sort of person," Isay says. "We've had firefighters who've never gone to therapy because they see it as self-indulgent, but come to StoryCorps because they realize they're leaving this record for future generations. And they come into the booth and cry for the first time."

Those stories have recorded the thoughts and feelings of many people touched by the attacks, from survivors who work at the Pentagon to mechanics and welders who worked in the recovery effort at ground zero. Families tell how their histories were rewritten, with the loss of a husband or a wife, a son or a daughter.

In addition to recording the unique lives of lost loved ones, Isay says, part of the goal is to "make the tragedy real and to make sure that we're always aware of what the families are going through."

"There is a lot of talk about victims' families finding closure now that we're hitting the 10th anniversary," he says. "I think that is a term that I know most victims would like to see banished from the English language when it comes to dealing with their lives. You know, there is no closure. I think that the best that we can do is remember."

Below, a one-hour special produced by StoryCorps and NPR collects some of the thoughts and feelings of those affected by the attacks:

'We Remember' — Stories From Family And Friends About Sept. 11

We Remember offers an intimate look at lives forever changed by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In the hourlong special, NPR's Audie Cornish talks with StoryCorps families who lost friends and loved ones to find out how they make their way today.

A list of the participants follows. In cases where their stories have aired on NPR's Morning Edition, we've included links to the original broadcast:

"We Remember" was produced by Kerry Thompson for NPR, and Dave Isay and Isaac Kestenbaum for StoryCorps, in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


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