For the last two and a half years Ive been knee deep in journal articles, academic ponderings and large books. Those large books double as platforms for your Mac so that when on Skype people look at your face, not up your nose. There isn’t a great deal of literature about the experience of loss for the families left behind when someone is missing. In searching for the 20000 words that made up my literature review chapter – which has lovingly been re-written 7 times – I had to think outside the box. I looked at mass casualty events where people’s whereabouts were unknown – like an earthquake in China, like The Disappeared in Argentina and all those people who happened to be in the twin towers 12 years ago today.

Some of the work done in recording the reactions of those who searched and the ones that waited isnt just applicable to the experience of other families of the missing but for everyday life in understanding the connections we hold with others.

So today, in honour of a friend who was lost on that day, I’ve shared the lines that touched me from the texts I’ve read and re-read since starting of this long research journey because as Arthur W. Frank says stories animate human life: that is their work.

‘The photographs of the missing are a precious remnant, a trace, a proof that the person exists’. THIS is a person, a missing person, they proclaim’, Edkins (2011)

The posters were employed, they remind us that, in tragic circumstances, every living survivor has a duty to the missing to remain hopeful and exhaust the search. Jones, Zagacki and Lewis (2007)

‘Perhaps the persistence of the posters was like a collective scream, an open wound, a refusal to close over the trauma of loss’. Edkins (2011)

“I don’t want his remains to be identified. it’s going to open up another door for me. I know he’s gone but i just think of him being in New York City, running around and having a good time and he just hasn’t called me yet, that’s all” (mum of a missing son. Vogel, 2003)

‘There are no bodies to insist that these people once lived, only their pictures. These pictures assert, like those alongside the Madres of the Plaza de Mayo: “They took them away alive, we want them back alive”. (Edkins, 2011)


Through the media we often become bystanders on the kerbside of other peoples traumas.  It is normal to buy in to the collective hope of a good result, of an answer that minimises another’s pain. In collecting the stories of those that placed posters around the city that day academics were able to reanimate, if only for a short time, the lives of those that were lost and the agony of waiting for those left behind.

A worthy cause indeed.

What were your recollections of the day?

Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. I was in hospital on September 11 (12th here where I woke up). I was feeling better and said to the nurse that I wanted to watch some music videos on TV. She told me that TV stations were all news reports because a plane had hit the WTC. I had no idea of the enormity of it until I saw replay after replay on the news. There was nothing else on TV and so I watched a lot of it when I was in hospital. It was also my first recollection of 24 hour news beginning.

    Last year I went to the 9/11 memorial in NYC. It was only then I realised the enormity of it all. Such a vast space, so many names on the edge of the pool in memory of those lost. Here is my post: http://carlyfindlay.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/travel-tales-september-11-memorial-site.html

    I can’t imagine the ongoing trauma for relatives and survivors seeing the footage of the terrorist attacks year after year.

    Great reflection as always Sarah. I am sorry for your loss.

    • I know it doesnt sound very holiday’ey but the memorial site is one I would really like to go to. Im intrigued by the idea of connecting with people via the images we choose to share. No need to say sorry for the loss to me Carly – but I think of her family this time of year each year x

  2. I was pregnant with my first child & had gone to bed early. When I heard the news on the radio at first I thought it was a joke, until I turned on the TV.

  3. I had just gone to bed when my flat mate came in to tell me to watch the TV…. My parents were overseas at the time so I checked their itinerary. They were currently on a United Airlines flight headed for Boston. I rang the friends they were due to be staying with and was on the phone to her as we both watched the second plane hit. I stayed up all night watching the news to try and find out which flights were involved and if there were any more… I was unable to find where my parents were. It was an awful night. At about 6:30am I received a phonecall. It was them. Their plane had turned around mid flight and headed back to London. They didn’t call earlier as they thought I’d be asleep!?


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