December 18, 2015 Library of Congress to Receive 9/11-Responder Oral History Collection

Press Contact: Jennifer Gavin (202) 707-1940
Public Contact: Stephen Winick (202) 707-1732

The Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center will become the home of a significant collection of oral histories provided by responders to the devastating Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the New York World Trade Center, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel announced today. The collection, known as the “Remembering 9/11 Oral History Project,” is being donated by physician Benjamin Luft, the Edmond Pellegrino Professor of Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and director of the Stony Brook WTC Wellness Program, who treated many of those responders following the tragedy.

“It is such a privilege for me to act as a conduit and be able to gift to the Library of Congress, our national repository of knowledge, our first 200 interviews with those who responded to the horrific attack of 9/11,” said Dr. Luft. “It comes at a time of great anxiety considering the recent repeated terrorist attacks on our soil and elsewhere in the world. These stories are the responders’ gift to our nation, now and for generations to come. Listening to them, with their descriptions of courage, love, sacrifice and survival, inspires us and informs us on how we need to be unified and care for one another during this time of unease.”

"No one else had the first-hand experience of being at Ground Zero on 9/11 quite like our brave first responders—their memories of that day will always be with them. Now thanks to the work of Dr. Benjamin Luft, who has collected the stories of our heroic responders, their memories will be preserved as part of the Library of Congress as a permanent collection for future generations of Americans," said Rep. Israel, who helped facilitate the collaboration with the Library of Congress. "For those who sacrificed their lives but survived that tragic day, their memories and stories will forever be preserved as a part of our nation's history."

The collection includes some 200 oral histories (each one hour to 1.5 hours long) and more than 1,000 digital photographs, manuscript materials, logbooks and indexes involving the personnel who responded to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers and who worked on response to the event, including rescue and recovery work on the building debris pile, over subsequent months. The donation is only a portion of what Dr. Luft has collected, and future installments are expected.

“After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2011, more than 50,000 workers from across the country descended on New York City to assist. Their first-hand accounts describe the unimaginable devastation of the WTC attack,” said Elizabeth Peterson, director of the Library’s American Folklife Center. “In these interviews, the responders describe the details of their disaster work, the atmosphere at their worksite, and the personal impacts of this disaster.”

The American Folklife Center and its predecessor, the Archive of Folk Culture, have collected public oral histories and other documentation following major events in U.S. history, such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War II.

AFC acquired significant collections following the events of 9/11. These include audio and video recordings concerning peoples’ experiences about, and reactions to, 9/11 that the center asked ethnographers from around the United States to send in between October 2001 and May 2002. This request led to the submission of more than 380 sound recordings and associated materials that were consolidated as the collection of the “September 11, 2001, Documentary Project.”

The American Folklife Center’s collections also include scores of personal narratives about 9/11 from around the nation that were recorded under the auspices of the StoryCorps project and donated to the Library of Congress. The entire StoryCorps collection, which includes thousands of interviews about a wide range of topics in addition to 9/11, is part of the American Folklife Center’s archival collection.

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American Folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s first federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at loc.gov.

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PR 15-221
2015-12-18
ISSN 0731-3527