Voicemails are deeply embedded into memories of 9/11. On that day in 2001, as people all across New York City tried to get hold of their friends and family, cellphone networks were overloaded. And for some of the victims inside the planes and towers, leaving a voicemail was their last way of communicating with their loved ones.
In the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, NPR set up an old phone booth in Brooklyn Bridge Park — across the river from the new World Trade Center — and invited people to leave a voicemail for someone they lost that day.
By searching public records, reaching out to national survivors’ networks, and collaborating with facilitators of 9/11 support groups on Facebook, we connected with six people who were willing to share their stories with us — people like Trish Straine, whose husband died in the north tower just six days after their second son was born; and Matthew Bocchi, who was only 9 years old when he lost his father in the attacks. Their individual experiences offer insight into the nature of grief and how it changes — or doesn’t — over time.
This project is inspired by the Wind Phone, a phone booth set up in Japan by garden designer Itaru Sasaki for people to communicate with those they lost in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.