The event that occurred on September 11, 2001 will remain in the mind of many Americans and friend of the people of United States of America, for many decades to come. This is the day that many lives of beloved brothers and sisters lost their lives. The country lost the most respected members of the society, young and old to the consequences of what seen as far away from the American society at the time. The effects of terrorism become evident in the eyes of the society, which had earlier thought that their country could not be attacked by terrorists. They believed that their country was more secure, but a new page opened in the American history, it was now clear to everyone that the country could also be attacked by its enemies. The bombing of 110 storey building in Washington were so shocking and terrifying to the majority of people who were peace lovers. The loss of life that resulted from this incident had a brilliant future impact on the political, socio-cultural and political history of the American society. This incident had a longtime impact on the way people viewed oral history in the American society especially the scholars in the field of history.
This study will investigate the development of oral history of September 11, 2001 bombing and the impact of this on the future changes/developments in the overall oral history, in American. The study will study the oral accounts given by various individuals on what they saw on that day. This will help draw conclusions, on the impact this accounts on the future development of oral history in the American society (Langley 2006, 51). The study seeks to answer the following questions; what did the people see? can they accurately remember what they saw? Can the oral history be said to have changed after the September 11, 2001 bombing? Did people develop confidence in this form of history? Which evidence is there to show that the has been a notable development in oral history on the September 11, 2001 bombing?
Answering the above questions, the study have helped to show how September 11, bombing played a vital role in the development of the oral history in America.
Oral history can be said as the form of history that passed from one generation to another through the word of mouth. Oral history can be traced back in the 19 th century. It involves conduction of interviews which people participate in or carry observation in past events, these events, perceptions and memories preserved record for generations to come in the future. Oral history makes efforts to obtain information from various perspectives, and many of these perspectives cannot be found in written history. Those societies that viewed as primitive have been using oral history to pass information from one generation to another. They use this form of history to preserve their cultures and values by ensuring that all generations, both present and future know their origin and values held by their fathers and grandfathers.
The main focus of this paper is to have a detailed review on the development of oral history after the September 11, 2001 bombing in America. The study will take into consideration to interviews by carried out by various news agencies on the persons who witnessed the tragedy. The persons who gave their accounts included fire fighters, individuals among other persons. This accounts of the events as narrated by various individuals will form a ground for drawing conclusions on the effectiveness of oral history as mean of passing past information from one generation to another. On the other hand, the study will help identify the various shortcomings of oral history as mean of keeping account of past events.
Development of Oral History on the September 11, 2001 Bombing
The event of this day will remain vivid in memory of many who witnessed this dis human act of terrorist in the history of the people of United States of America. This part of the study will take various accounts given by the witnesses of the September 11, 2001 bombing, this witnesses were there at the time when tragedy took place, and their accounts will play a vital role in analyzing the development of oral history on the September 11, 2001bombing.
Maureen McArdle a firefighter gives the following account of the event that happened on that day; she recalls hearing someone yelling before the towers collapsed. "It was people who were coming out, and they were coming out one person after the other." At first nobody knew what was happening until the first body hit, and it was when we realized what was happening. This made me sick; the people choose to die and nothing we could do to help them. She recalls that they had to turn away with another guy and look at the wall, but this did not help as they could hear more body hit.
The above accounts bring to us the fresh memories of the firefighter over the collapse of the twin towers, both the south and north, which was so horrifying. The transmissions from the radio bring to light the historical events of this day; they describe how the plane crashed into the World Trade Centre (Strasser 2004, 27). The radio communications shows how as that depth of the tragedy came evident the panic in the voices of firefighter came clear.
As we have seen above, people in the tower give their account of how powerful explosions heard in the basement of the World Trade Centre. These explosions resulted to the ground to shake. Lonnie Penn, a medical technician, gave the account how the ground was shaking," I could feel the ground shaking, I had to turn and ran as fast as I managed for my life. I managed to ran as far as the Financial Center and when I heard the horrifying collapse occured." The official account had indicated that the vibrations that people felt were coming from the materials from the towers as they collapsed. However, from Penn's account, the shaking might have taken place several seconds before the towers collapsed.
Paul Curran gave the following account on what happened prior to the collapse of the tower. "The ground suddenly started shaking, i was feel as a train was running near my feet. The next event that followed when I looked up was that the northern tower was collapsing. "On his part Lieutenant Bradley Mann from the fire department who witnessed both the towers collapse gave the following account, " I recall feeling that the ground was shaking, then suddenly i heard a very horrifying noise, immediately debris was flying everywhere. Every ones were running for their lives, after returning to the area the same thing happened, and the second tower comes down collapsing."
The oral history on the testimonies on the event of September 11, 2001 bombing contain many accounts of more than one explosion have occurred. For example, Paramedic Kelvin gave the following account, " as i was walking back in the direction of Vesey Street i suddenly heard three explosions, and the next thing that i could hear was people groaning and screaming and then i saw the two towers collapsing." Grady Brady, a medical technician, gave the same account on what happened to the northern tower, " I recall hearing three loud terrifying explosions. When I looked up to see what was happening the north tower, was collapsing."
Some witnesses reported that pop occurred during the tragic event in the World Trading Centre. Firefighter Joseph Meola gave this account, "as we looked up at the tower; it seemed that there was blowing of the building from the four sides, we all heard pops. But it later comes to us that the building was falling."
According to the accounts realized from the official sources the collapsing of the floors started when the floors above the zone that was a strike, this occured when the supports weakened by the plane impact and the fire that resulted afterwards, this caused the wall to fall. This account was quite different as given by various witnesses who reported, that the collapse witnessed in the southern tower started lower from the floors that had been a strike by plane and therefore lower than the fire.
Timothy Burke gave the following account, "the building was popping, lower than the fire. I later heard some rumors that the aviation fuel had fallen into the pit, and the fool in which it fell could have heated up fast, and it was when the popping occurred in the floor. From my account as i was going, there was a secondary device for the way the popping occurred in the building(Damico 2010, 57). I thought there was an explosion." The mere observation made by Edward Cachia a firefighter who gave this account, " as i and my officers looked in the direction of the southern tower, at a lower part of the floor, not the part which been hit by the plane.
Some witnesses gave another dimension of the story,that something beyond explosions had occurred before the tower collapsed; they suggested that of controlled demolition occurred.
When a building close to other buildings been brought down through controlled demolition, as mentioned above, it somehow implodes and, as a result, it comes straight down straight into, on the surrounding structures.
As we mentioned in the earlier accounts that were available, both police and firefighter officials also quoted saying that the towers seemed to have imploded. This form of account also given in the oral history of Lieutenant James Walsh, gave his account as follows, "The tower did not fall as one would think that tall buildings would fall. Pretty much it seemed las it imploded on its own."
Some of the city officials gave some suggestions that firefighters failed to hinder to the earlier calls in the day to show their personal heroism. Many of the families blamed the city officials for giving the firefighters faulty radios. Gregg Hansson a firefighter gave his account, and he said that he had heard a call asking them to evacuate, and he recalls that he saw many of their colleagues were leaving the building (Neria 2006, 32).
In his oral history Hansson, “I heard during the mayday a from the channel command a call ordering evacuation of the building. I told everyone to leave the building and i also did the same, all the members of the units did follow the order, and they began to evacuate the building.” Paul Bessler firefighter positioned on the northern tower, remember seeing a colleague going up in the stairs showings signs of someone taking a mission, “ It was when, i received a call saying imminent collapse, and this terrorist attack so evacuate immediately.”
Patrick Martin gave the following account he said that when the collapse of the southern tower occured and before collapsing of the northern tower; his lieutenant directed him to head where the car was to take people to hospitals which was located at some metres from the poplar Hudson River.
"I replied to him that i was not going to leave," Martin said. "One guy is still missing."
Timothy Burke from a certain company which was in possession of a cell phone and they were using it to call up their various families.
"It looked very disasterous that everybody was in a hurry calling their families saying goodbye to them”. "Send all the available ambulance, everything should go to the World Trade Center," a firefighter called from Engine 1. "Yelling Now!"
September11 2001 bombing, family members were pouring over the records Friday, some were tearing up describing the attack and sounds from the attack and response from the attack. At one of the office building in midtown Manhattan, half-dozen family members and two fire officers bent over the laptops examining the material.
Firefighter Lt. Jerry Reilly, who escaped the tragedy in the trade center, said the transmissions were extremely painful to hear. "He said, he had never heard any of this before the chaos was too much," he said as tear come down from his eyes. The records now shed some new light onto many lingering questions, and some long-standing complaints about the response received from the city. Firefighters gave a description of faulty communications equipment, and some of them disobeyed orders. A group of families from the victims who had become advocates for making reforms in the building codes and emergency responses had been eagerly waiting for the release of the records with high hopes of challenging the notion that many of the firefighters in the northern tower heard, but they chose to ignore, a message issued to them to evacuate after the southern tower collapsed.
The New York Times as well as the families of September 11, 2001 bombings victims were forced to sued the city officals in 2002 in order for them to release various records on the events of that day. The city officials had withheld them, with claiming that the release was going to amount to violation of firefighters' working privacy and in a way would jeopardize the prosecution which was going on of suspect Zacarias Moussaoui, who later was to plead guilty of working together with the September 11 hijackers. The march, of that same year state's supreme court gave an order to the city officials to make public the various oral histories as well as the radio transmissions, however the city had a room to edit out those painful as well as embarrassing parts of the oral history. The city Fire Department, in its statement issued said that it hoped the releasing of the various records of the oral history, and radio transmission were not going to cause firefighters as well as their families any additional pains." The Department believed that the materials they realized today will help in further confirmation of the bravery and courage showed by our members who responded to the tragedy at the World Trade Center," the statement said.(New York Timers 2001)
From the above accounts given by the various witnesses of the September 11, 2001 bombing help us, to understand the role played by the oral history in the development of history of the tragic occurrence, in the history of American people (Hampton 2001, 80). From the narrations and testimonies of various individuals, it is evident that oral history has played a vital role in passing information of what happened on this day to future generation of American society( Chernick 2005, 41). The following implications can be drawn from the testimonies given by firefighters, police, individuals and medical personnel who were at the site of bombing that is the World Trade Centre.
Oral history on the events of the September 11, 2001 is readily available compared to other forms of history such as written history. This is evident as there many people who were readily available to give their account of what they witnessed.
Oral history forms a better way of passing information to future generations on what happened on the day. This is the case as most of the testimonies given by different individuals are the same; thus, there is no room for contradictions.
Oral history on the other part is accurate in the development of September 11, 2001 bombing. This is the case as the people who witnessed the tragedy are the ones who interviewed, those the information that they gave was more accurate than from any other form of information from any other source( Caraley 2002, 67).
Even, though oral history has the some evident short comings these limitations have hindered the development of an oral history over the years. This has in turn resulted to many people not to have confidence in the information given from oral history. These short comings are also highly evident in the oral history of the September 11, 2001 developments. These short comings include witnesses giving different accounts in the same event. This was evident in the oral information collected as some people gave contradicting information on the cause of the towers fall. Secondly, oral history is prone to distortion, some information is likely to be lost as the history narrated from one generation to another. This make the accuracy of information from this source of history questionable by many of the stakeholders especially the architects of written history.
Basing argument on the above on the instance of what happened on September 11, 2001 it can be concluded that Oral history has played a vital role in preserving the events of this day for the sake of future generations. Despite the short comings mentioned, oral history will remain a vital center of the source of history on the events that happened on this tragic day.
Finally, further studies need to be carried on how to improve the accuracy of information passed from oral history for the purpose of making this form of history more appreciated by all quotas of the society as a vital tool in the development of history of the September 11, 2001 bombing. The oral history has helped in solving up the various circumstances surrounding the fall of the twin towers and complaints over the responses from the firefighters(Bolton 2006, 43)
The realization of testimonies given by various witnesses who were at the place of the tragedy gave peace the families of those who lost their loved ones. There were many serve men and women who lost their lives, as they responded to the call of dealing with fire that resulted from the plane crash on the twin tower. They were not aware of the that the attack on the building was from act of terrorism their courage and bravery l be treasured by generations to come (Atkins 2011, 23). Although the realize of this oral history is painful to many who lost their loved one, it is worth for the sake of separating the truth from lies over the response of the city officials to the tragedy.
I take this opportunity to thank the New York Times for their valuable information on the various interviews they carried on the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 bombing from the witnesses who were at the site of the tragedy. I am also truly grateful to the highest court in the land for ordering the realize of the oral histories of the tragic day in history as a country.