September 11th: paying tribute

As the 9th anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches, we’ve been reflecting on what it was like to work for in the midst of this national tragedy. This week, we’ll share stories from several team members who assisted with creating and maintaining our Remembering 9/11 memorial site. 

I, Linnea, was at work. Our CTO was listening to the radio in his office. He came out to tell us about the first plane, but nobody really knew what was happening at that point. When the second plane hit, we were starting to get an idea. Everyone was stunned and confused and scared, and we wanted to go home but couldn’t, and my sister lived in New York and I couldn’t get through to her for hours, and it’s not a very unique story but everyone’s story still feels worth telling and listening to, nine years later.

I think it was by the end of the day on 9/11 – maybe 9/12 – that we realized Legacy would need to memorialize the thousands of victims of the attacks, and we got started on the huge job we had ahead of us. And it was good, having something positive and productive to channel all our sadness and helplessness into.

The New York Times was publishing profiles of many of the victims, and they reached out to us to ask that we create online Guest Books to include with each profile. We reprinted them as part of our tributes to each individual who died that day. That became a daily part of my job: finding any new profiles that were available, tweaking the format and photo dimensions, and posting them on our site.

And reading them. I think I read every single profile that’s on our tribute site, and stared at all the photos.

Each tribute had a Guest Book, too, and entries started trickling in during the weeks and months following 9/11. In September 2002, the trickle became a flood so heavy that it shut our site down on the anniversary. We read all of them – there were no more than 6 or 7 of us on the Operations team then, and between us we read every last entry, sometimes until the wee hours. As we read the entries, we relived that day over and over.

I was not one of the people who were obsessively watching news coverage throughout September 2001 and beyond. I couldn’t – not after spending every work day immersed in the stories of so many shortened lives and so much grief. I just couldn’t handle more coverage when I got home. So I would take the dog to the beach, or read, or call my parents and try to steer them to other topics.

Sometimes I felt like this made me weird, because everyone else I knew just wanted to talk about the attacks and learn what was happening in their wake. But they didn’t spend their work days staring at photos, and reading Guest Book entry after Guest Book entry, and making little adjustments to tributes to make sure they looked as perfect as possible online.

Most of the people I knew paid tribute by following the news, by attending vigils, by talking about it as much as they could. I paid tribute by doing my best to give each victim a fitting memorial online. And then by going home and taking the dog to the beach, while I still can.

The “Remembering 9/11” site includes obituaries, profiles, Guest Books, Moving Tributes and a National Book of Remembrance. To date, more than 5 million people have visited the site, leaving more than 180,000 Guest Book entries.

About Linnea

I joined in 2000 as an obituary writer. In the years since, I've done a little of everything for our Operations team, from content review to customer service to creating web pages for funeral homes to training new employees to my current position, Content Manager. I love this position, because I get to write little bits & longer pieces - whatever's needed at the moment - and I get to proofread a lot, satisfying my inner nitpicker. And I love being on the blog team, because I get to write interesting features for the blog. I love to write! In my spare time, I... can you guess?... write. I'm hoping that one day I can add "published novelist" to my bio. I also enjoy working in my vegetable garden and cooking, baking, canning, making ice cream, and pretty much anything else in the kitchen. I love to read, compete in trivia contests, and attempt to keep up with my Netflix queue.
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