Photo credit: Emily Hall, former 9:57 Project participant (Class of 2015). Emily now works as a Post Production Coordinator and Video Editor in Los Angeles, CA. You can view more of her work at emilyeldridgehall.com
The “UNITED AGAIN” Initiative is a collaboration between Andrew Carroll, director of the Center for American War Letters, and Peter Finder, CEO of the 9:57 Project, to preserve and revive the spirit of unity and togetherness that took place in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Our mission is to encourage Americans to remember how, in the midst of the worst attack on American soil, we came together, and we hope to encourage our fellow citizens to work and strive to be united again.
To honor and remember U.S. troops, veterans, and their families, Andrew Carroll began seeking out and preserving war letters from every American conflict, from the Revolution to the present day, more than two decades again, and this effort inspired Carroll to create the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University. Peter Findler co-founded the 9:57 Project with U.S. Army aviator John Hamilton, who served in Afghanistan, and their project primarily works with educators across the country who are teaching their students about the events of 9/11. (The name comes from the time, 9:57 a.m., when passengers aboard United Flight 93 began their revolt against the terrorists who had hijacked the plane. The 40 passengers and crew members sacrificed their lives to crash the plane into an open field in western Pennsylvania, before it could fly to Washington, D.C., and, by all accounts, target either the Capitol Building or the White House. For more information about the memorial to the lives lost in Shanksville, PA, please visit here.)
As it relates to Carroll’s project, you can contribute to this effort by donating letters and/or emails written on or after 9/11, whether by civilians who were somehow affected (including survivors at the Pentagon or at Ground Zero in New York) or those who joined the military because of the attacks. The Center archives correspondences from all U.S. wars, so if you or someone you know have letters or emails to share from any conflict, those will be appreciated as well; this particular “UNITED AGAIN” initiative, with the 9:57 Project, focuses on 9/11-related correspondences, and the Center has very few—and is in need—of those. Please feel free to email Andrew directly at: WarLetterProject@aol.com.
And for teachers of grades 9-12 (and parents homeschooling their children), the 9:57 Project offers several lesson plans that engage students on the spirit of unity after 9/11, and these are freely available on the 9:57 Project’s website. The lesson featured here is inspired by a graphic, firsthand account of 9/11, a letter written by Anna Miller, who chronicled not just of the terror she witnessed in Manhattan that day, but the spirit of selflessness that she saw and took part in as she made her way to safety. (This letter is one of the few 9/11 correspondences that Andrew Carroll has collected.) The events that Miller recounts in her letter would become known as the 9/11 "boatlift," still the largest water evacuation in world history. The lesson asks students to respond to what they learn by composing “adopted” poetry, which is a poem based solely on the words and phrases of someone else, in this case, Anna Miller. Teachers are encouraged to share student-created poetry with us at the 9:57 Project. View the lesson plan here.
Stephen Jay Gould, the bestselling scientist and historian, wrote, in an op-ed for the New York Times that was published on September 26th 2001, that the unity he witnessed on 9/11 was enough to surmount the horrific acts of terror that took place that day. His call to action is one that continues to inspire many Americans: “We have a duty, almost a holy responsibility, to record and honor the victorious weight of these innumerable little kindnesses, when an unprecedented act of evil so threatens to distort our perception of ordinary human behavior.”
Ultimately, although their organizations are separate nonprofits with distinct missions, Andrew Carroll and Peter Findler share a desire to remind this generation and those to come of the sacrifices made by so many individuals to protect and defend this nation and that we are never stronger as a country—and a beacon to the world—than when we find common ground and work together as the United States of America.
You can help by teaching (and/or sharing) the lesson plan described above featuring a story of 9/11 selflessness. The lesson features a firsthand account from Anna Miller who witnessed and participated in what would become the largest water evacuation in human history. The lesson is a part of the 9:57 Project's mission to spread stories of 9/11 courage, resilience, and service.
The images below serve as a reminder of the spirit of togetherness that Americans experienced following the 9/11 attacks
Porter Gifford / Getty Images
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Ira Wyman / Getty Images
Gregg Brown / Getty Images
Robert F. Bukaty / AP
Gene Shaw / Getty Images