NPR logo Listening Back to Sept. 11

Listening Back to Sept. 11

Every time I think that I'm ready to move on from Sept. 11, 2001, something happens to pull me back to that day. Last summer, I had to listen to hours of New York Fire Department dispatch tapes from the disaster. Last week, it was new body parts from the World Trade Center that were found in an adjoining building about to be demolished. Today, it was the release of 911 calls from the burning buildings.

Margot Adler plays one of the calls on NPR tonight and it's gripping. When you listen to the calm voice of Christopher Hanley on the 106th floor talk about an explosion and smoke, you know how it's going to end, but you find yourself pulling for him.

"Please hurry," Hanley says. "We're on our way," the fire dispatcher responds.

It drags me right back to those moments when I didn't yet know the death toll by heart.

I live in New York, where every day seems to bring a new fight about the future of Ground Zero, a new protest by grieving family members. I used to think it was just bureaucratic mismanagement that kept us from rebuilding the site and moving forward. But I'm starting to suspect something darker. There's something unresolved about that day, and like the ghost that can't travel into the next life, it's haunting us. I think there's some sort of desire to relive that day, to figure it out. And until we do, we have to keep going back.

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