The popular response to 9/11 was overwhelming. The events, and what to do in their aftermath, consumed the America’s national conversation for months, if not years, afterwards. But while much of the outpouring was that of individuals grieving or trying to come to terms with what had happened, scholars, researchers and other organizations were attempting to put together more formal assessments of the changes brought about that day. The 9/11 Digital Archive collection of reports offers a partial view of the outpouring of material that sought to provide more formal guidance to a distraught nation.The collection pulls together largely unrelated reports from numerous non-profits and think tanks.
This collection, unlike others in the archive, is unified by form rather than source or topic, tending more towards white papers and published articles. The organizations represented include official government publication, ethnic lobbying groups, economic and business concerns, and national security think tanks. The reports cover a wide range of topics, rarely overlapping, and offer insight into the effect of 9/11 on the activities of many different segments of American life. Some of these are from professions seeking to address new concerns in the communities they served, like psychiatric associations seeking to give their members the tools to deal with a new influx of trauma patients or those providing literacy and English language services to New York City’s poor and immigrant populations, who disproportionately felt the effects of the dislocations of that September. Others are from groups attempting to establish the extent of the damage that had been done, looking for numbers to gauge the economic damage, or the backlash against ethnic groups perceived as sharing responsibility for the attacks.
The year following the attack on the World Trade Center was tumultuous for the city of New York. Placed at the epicenter of events that many Americans felt continued to defy understanding, residents also struggled to make sense of what had happened. The Michael Ragsdale Flyer Collection provides a glimpse into some public discussions that played out on street corners and telephone poles.
Flyers gathered daily by Mr. Ragsdale offer us insight into the myriad of issues that concerned New Yorkers. On these pages we see reactions from institutions, advocacy efforts from anti-war groups, and efforts to help people cope with the potential mental health consequences of the attacks. Many sought to address public confusion and ignorance about the events and causes and attempted to diffuse growing tensions between different groups throughout the city and the country.
Through the fliers, we can see that much of the debate focuses on the merits and justice of using force in retaliation for the September 11th attacks. Heavily represented in the collection are anti-war fliers, together with items from religious organizations and advocates for public servants (fire, EMS, law enforcement, and even postal workers).
Those interested in visual culture and propaganda will find the collection of advocacy posters a useful resource. The artistic construction of these fliers offers insight into design in the early 2000s. While some are hand-drawn, many reflect the increased availability of home computers, image manipulation software, and online images This includes fliers that repurpose older art, make use of clip art, or remix older art with digital photography. While a few demonstrate professional design skills, most are clearly the product of passionate amateurs using the traditional form of a broadside to engage New Yorkers in conversations about their post-9/11 lives.