Changed Lives: Understanding New Jersey in the Aftermath of September 11th

Changed Lives: Understanding New Jersey in the Aftermath of September 11th, is a statewide project created to record and preserve New Jersey’s response to the events of September 11, 2001. The objects and stories that we have collected, beginning in September 2001, will help us to build a framework for understanding its impact on the state.

Photographs: For more than nine months following September 11th, we collected thousands of photographs taken by professional and amateur photographers documenting a range of responses to the tragedy. Our collection includes photographs of memorial shrines and other public displays of mourning and tribute that appeared in the days and weeks following the attacks on the WTC, the Pentagon and the downed flight over Pennsylvania. It also includes photographs taken by NJ firefighters who joined various task forces around the state to respond to the crisis by offering mutual aid to NYC. The NJ-Task Force 1, Urban Search and Rescue Team, based at Lakehurst Army Naval Base in Ocean County, NJ, the first search and rescue team to respond to New York on the day of the attacks, donated thousands of photographs documenting their work on the site of the World Trade Center.

Printed Materials: These include copies of “missing” posters that, as the tragedy unfolded, quickly became public tributes to those who lost their lives in the attacks. We have become the repository for a variety of banners, letters written by school children to rescue workers, and a myriad of fliers and programs related to a range of public events, including religious services and forums. We also have collected numerous published materials from NJ-based institutions, including UMDNJ and St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, that tell the complex story of how New Jerseyans responded to the crisis. Finally, Atlantic Engineering located in Kinnelon, New Jersey, has generously donated maps of the site as well as WTC building plans that were used by NJ-TF1 as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] teams in their search efforts.

Objects and Material Culture: Some of the objects we have received include a uniform worn by a first responder to the WTC site, a “NOVA” shirt worn by a member of the Office of Recovery and Victim Assistance, who assisted the families of victims at Liberty State Park, an urn with soil from below ground at the WTC site and a military-style folded flag, an exact replica of what was given to each family who lost a loved one, and a teddy bear that was distributed to families of victims by Salvation Army volunteers. Together, these objects and many others, will help to provide an historical snapshot of the events surrounding September 11, one that will be useful to scholars and researchers in the future.

What You Can Do: Although it is too early to know whether our lives have changed and if they have, to what degree, we are soliciting materials that will eventually help to answer this complicated question. For example, we have all heard about increased security measures that the Port Authority has put in place at Newark Airport and other venues. Other institutions have taken similar precautions. We are interested in receiving documentation; it could be in the form of photographs, fliers or announcements, or any other form that we have not ourselves imagined that will help to demonstrate such change. We are also interested in receiving materials related to civil liberties, tolerance issues, and education as they are related to 9-11.

In building our collection for this portion of our Changed Lives project, we are relying on members of our community to come forth and share with us visually how New Jerseyans lives have changed. The strength of our collection will come from a truly interactive relationship. We look forward to receiving your contributions and input.

This project was generously funded in part by the Charles Emil Thenen Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and the New Jersey Historical Commission.

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