Tuesday, September 11, 2007


This screen shot of Google at 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001 is a jolting reminder. The same user options are there, but "I'm Feeling Lucky" seems out of place. The screen directs readers elsewhere. "If you are looking for news, you will find the most current information on TV or radio. Many online news service are not available, because of extremely high demand."

It has never been too early to begin writing the histories of September 11. There are extraordinary resources. This screen shot is captured on a site with 9/11 screen shots from around the world, reminding us that September 11 was a world event that, at least for a moment, knitted Americans together with their global neighbors.

The Library of Congress maintains a multidimensional website: Witness and Response: September 11 Acquisitions at the Library of Congress. For example, the Geography and Map Division provides cartographic resources, with aerial views and thermal imaging of the World Trade Center site. U.S. and international newspapers are here.

The most extraordinary on-line resource that I'm aware of remains the September 11 Digital Archive, created by the Center for History and New Media and American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning. The archive began collecting stories and images shortly after September 11. Update: A redesign of the Digital Archive and other on-line resources are discussed today in the New York Times, with images and links.

It is sometimes said that reflecting on recent events is not the job of historians. Instead, our role is wait, as if our form of understanding requires that we hold off until the facts are not so full of feeling. But it is simply a duty of citizenship in the world to bring one's tools, whatever they may be, to the most pressing problems of our age. In October 2001, I argued that understanding September 11 and its aftermath cannot be left to others for a decade or more. It is our job, our responsibility.