It’s Important to Remember

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17 years ago I woke up on a fold-out bed, on the last day of a vacation, and turned the TV on to watch the first tower fall. The couple we were staying with were a cop and a firefighter–they were off that day but went in to work without being asked. With all flights grounded it took us nearly 2 weeks to get home.

That’s one of millions of our stories that end with coming back home. Nearly 3,000 stories didn’t end that way.

Please take the time today to go read about at just 1 of these people–who died in a battle they didn’t know they were going to fight.

Scott Michael Johnson’s remain identified, nearly 17 after 9/11.

The excerpt below is from an NPR article.  You can read the full story there.

“His name was Scott Michael Johnson, and he was 26 years old when a plane flew into the World Trade Center tower he worked in on Sept. 11, 2001.

His remains have now been identified, nearly 17 years later after the attack.

New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner announced the news on Wednesday.”

“In 2001, we made a commitment to the families of victims that we would do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to identify their loved ones,” Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said in a statement. “This identification is the result of the tireless dedication of our staff to this ongoing mission.”

The excerpt above is from an NPR article.  You can read the full story there.


I’ve already seen posts on social media, criticizing people for using hashtags like #JeSuisParis, and posting images of France. They’re calling it hollow. Hashtag activism.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

The purpose of terrorism is to inspire terror. And it works. That will always happen when people are thrown into a swarm of violence.

But the goal of terrorism is to drive us apart by making us fearful of our neighbors–to make us scared and distrustful of people who aren’t just like us. And that’s something we can fight.

It’s impossible for me to think about 9/11 without also recalling other images from those terrifying days. An atrium at a Volkswagen plant in Germany, blanketed with tens of thousands of prayer candles… The US National Anthem played at England’s changing of the guard… French citizens making a shrine at the US Embassy. At a time when we were attacked, when we were scared, people who couldn’t offer any other help in that moment were able to say that they were there for us.

If a hashtag does nothing more than offer a scared Parisian the comfort of knowing they have friends, then it’s far from worthless.

An Empire State Building lit up with the French colors, isn’t hollow. It’s a way of saying to a friend, that even though we don’t always agree, even though we sometimes fight, and even though I can’t be there with you tonight, I will stand with you and stare into the darkness.

For as long as it takes.


2015 is Our 10th Year

Project 2,996 was created back in 2006. So, even though we’re not yet 10 years old, this will be the 10th 9/11 where we have encouraged others to remember these people not by rehashing their very public deaths, but by learning about their lives.

I’ll freely admit when the idea came to me that I didn’t expect it to take off the way it did. In fact, until right before 9/11 I actually had the information contained on a single page of my existing blog. Then on 9/11 so many people visited my website–to see the list and follow the links–that I used up all my allotted traffic before I even woke up. I had trouble getting my site back up because every time my webhost tried to bring it back up a flood of incoming traffic immediately took it back down. Thankfully, some of the other participants put up mirrors of the list. That first year, even though my site was down for more than 12 hours, my webhost logged more than 2 million incoming requests.

However, what shocked me was how many people were willing to sign up to learn about–and write about–someone they never met.

This year–as I always do–I invite you to learn about those killed on 9/11.

The full list (on this site)

Our Facebook page

Project 2996 Legacy Group on Pinterest

Thank you for the New Tributes

I just updated with a few new tributes, and some fixed links.

Thanks to Darryl for getting a post up yesterday. What with work, moving, and a few memorial ceremonies on the drumline with the pipe band, I just haven’t had much free time in the last few weeks. So thanks, for taking care of that.

If you have written a new tribute, if I have the wrong link, or if for some reason I’m missing your link, be sure to leave a comment and let me know.


11 Years After

I waited to write this post until late in the day. I was curious how the eleventh anniversary would be marked across the country. Eleven years after, we have passed two milestones. A little more than a year ago, the primary organizer of the attacks (no I will not mention his name) was killed. Last year this was still fresh and many people asked if we would enter a new chapter in our collective remembrance. The other milestone was the tenth anniversary. We love our round numbers, and as silly as it seems, a decade seems a natural time for our psyches to move on to a less burning form of grief.

As many suspected, today’s ceremonies were more subdued than they have been in past years. Anger has faded. We’ve stopped asking Why? and come to understand that once you look closely, there are no satisfactory answers that can explain why madness does what it does. Politicians have moved on and left families to handle the day themselves. And what is largely left to those who choose to mark September 11 th , is reflection.

Over the last six years I’ve talked to many people about the events of that day, and about how chose to move on. Some were family or friends of those who died, most weren’t. And I’ve noticed a pattern.

September 11 th has been used by politicians to further their own points of view. But the rank and file have generally treated the day as a day to forget the things that make us different. I’ve made sure to keep Project 2,996 free of politics, but was neither the first nor the last to make that decision.

If you look at the anniversary over the last few years, you can see that gradually, 9/11 is becoming a day to focus on the things that we agree on, instead of this things that separate us. It’s become a day to forget about partisanship. There are early attempts at making it a day to do something positive—a day to help others—whether through blood drives or charitable work.

I can’t think of a better thing to do on 9/11.

Quick Update

When I get up tomorrow morning I’ll write a real 11th anniversary post.

Right now, I just wanted to apologize to all of you who are leaving comments or sending me emails with updated or new tribute links.  Work has been crazy these last two weeks and the pipe and drum band is getting ready for a competition this weekend, so even my hobby is keeping me busy.

I will get to updating the list with all of the hard work you’ve put in, but it’s just not going to happen by tomorrow.

The Way of Coincidences

This isn’t meant as self-promotion, and I hope it doesn’t come off that way.

Working on this project now for six years, several times I’ve been caught by the coincidences that crop up.

The first year, while randomly assigning names, one participant wound up writing a tribute to someone who had lived in the house next door (though at different times). When I started Project 2,996 I didn’t know anyone who died that day–or any of their families. Sometime after I started the project I made friends with a family in my neighborhood, but it was another year until I discovered that my their BIL/Uncle had died in WTC1.

Last night I was struck by another coincidence. In the last few years I’ve taken up with a bagpipe band here in Raleigh–Wake & District Pipes & Drums–and I’m now part of the drumline. A few weeks ago when our Pipe Major asked for volunteers to play for the Jimmy V Gala to raise money for cancer research, I volunteered because…well, pipes & drums and then the pub on a Saturday night…what could be better?

It was only once I was at the Gala that I realized that the guests of honor this year were a group of 9/11 first responders and ground zero workers who have developed cancer.

In the video linked below, you can see the band playing (at the 0:16 mark)… I was right behind the Bass Drum, which comes into frame right as they cut away.

Watch Video

A New Addition to Project 2,996

September 11th almost surprised me this year. I’ve had a lot going on this year* and just didn’t see it coming.

Luckily for me, someone who’s been part of Project 2,996 since the beginning, Darryl Heron, was not asleep at the switch. A couple of weeks ago he contacted me with an idea. A simple idea, but one that required some thought and planning. He’s almost ready to announce it.

What is it? Well…it’s his idea, so I’d rather let him do the explaining. But this should be a great new way to share information about the 2,996 people who died almost eleven years ago.

I will say that we’re likely to need a few volunteers who are comfortable with social networking and have a little free time.

So this is Darryl’s introduction, and sometime in the next couple of days he’ll be along to share his idea with you.

* Learning to drum in a bagpipe band takes up more time than you’d think.

A Quick Note about the 2,996

I’ve received a couple of comments on this so I just want to be clear that the list of 2,996 name does NOT contain the hijackers.

When I downloaded the list 5 years ago I chose to include both those officially listed as killed, AND those listed as missing. In the last 5 years a small number of those originally listed as missing have been added to the list of official victims. As of right now, the number of missing is 19, the same as the number of hijackers.

My list is not identical to the official list of victims. From the beginning I decided that I’d rather accidentally include a name than accidentally exclude someone.