Updated Wed, Sep 11, 2013 3:58 pm
Tuesday morning, WOUB asked over 50 individuals in uptown Athens for the first word or emotion they said or felt on September 11, 2001, when they first heard that that something was wrong.
We then compiled the responses into a word cloud. Because word clouds illustrate how frequently a word is used, and because so many people used the same word to describe their first reaction to the attacks, you will only see 36 words and phrases in our cloud. The size of each word represents how frequently that word was cited by interviewed individuals.
As we interrupted people hurrying to class or work, we found that despite being required to contribute only one word, the vast majority of interviewees voluntarily supplied us with the story behind their words. Many of the college students we interviewed were in grade school at the time, and told us how they couldn’t really comprehend why their teachers - “my hero,” as one woman put it - were crying; one man said seeing his teacher cry, “broke my heart.”
Another man gave us a quick history lesson of other events that occurred on September 11 in other years. A veteran declared he felt, “betrayed.” A woman who lived in New York at the time said our request for a one-word reaction was too simple for her to honor.
That so many felt compelled to tell us their entire “Where were you on 9/11” stories demonstrates our use of words to form connections between ourselves and the larger world. And the words we choose are a reflection of the cumulating essences of who we are at each additional second of our lives.
This is who Athenians were at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001.