This summer we are fortunate to have five New Canaan High School student interns working on the annual VOICES Community Response project. Their assignment this year was to focus on 9/11 memorials in the tri-state area. Given this topic, they were then free to choose which memorials they wanted to learn more about.
For the past month, Mary, Ryan, Mike, Steve and Ted have dedicated their summer days to researching local memorials. They have placed calls to dozens of community leaders, first selectmen, foundation members, and architects inquiring about their planning process for the memorials.
After receiving responses from several community leaders, they scheduled in-person video interviews. How did you go about choosing the design for the memorial? Were the families included in the process? How was the location chosen? Our interns sought to capture the hours of work and tireless efforts of community members that went into planning every specific detail.
The size of the memorials can vary - from commemorating the lives of specific people, to the victims in a specific community, to memorials dedicated to all the lives lost on September 11th. Trying to incorporate all types of memorials on this spectrum, the interns picked seven exhibits from around the NYC metropolitan area. Featured memorials include the New Canaan Firehouse memorial, the Ridgefield and Greenwich town memorials, the Empty Sky Memorial in New Jersey, the Westchester County 9/11 Memorial, “The Rising,” as well as the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.
After filming interviews with community members and footage of memorials, they returned to the office to transcribe the interviews and edit footage for their film. The final product will be a presentation of their findings in the form of a PowerPoint, followed by a short documentary film.
The resounding feedback from the interns was that hearing community members’ recollections of 9/11 was their favorite part of the experience. As Ryan Callahan put it, the interns were all very young when the attacks occurred and they have appreciated “re-learning what happened through the eyes of someone who lived it; seeing how adults saw it.” Now that they are juniors and seniors in high school, they can begin to appreciate the magnitude of September 11, 2001.
The interns would agree that the most meaningful part of their work is remembering those whose lives were lost. For Mary Taylor, “doing this project helps contribute to the cause of keeping the victims alive.” Mike Popper agrees: “It is so important to remember. It’s almost like this version of the response project is inspiring other people to remember as well.”
Over the last few weeks, they have certainly grown together as a group while working to document an important aspect of post-9/11 remembrance that can often be overlooked.
The date is set for the project presentation at 6pm on Wednesday, September 3rd at the New Canaan Library. Be sure to mark your calendars for the VOICES Community Response Project and set aside some time to learn about local memorials dedicated to those lost on September 11th.