As the anniversary of Sept. 11 spawns its many commemorative covers and magazines and books, all attempting to find the sophisticated angle, the final assessment, the answer to the question of what's changed about us since the terrorist attacks that day, it's hard to feel any closer to understanding, if understanding is what one does feel, than to read these first accounts.
Many are not written like traditional news articles. In an almost instinctive but strangely pervasive way, the reporters who wrote what they saw when they were there, in the shadow of the towers and then under the great black cloud that hung where they had stood once they'd fallen, were writing from their gut, directly to the reader. Thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers had these stories. But without public transportation to take them anywhere, without phones or the Internet, without so much that we take for granted about the way stories are told and passed along now, these stories, distributed at great pains in extreme circumstances throughout the city in the early morning hours of Sept. 12, were the proxy stories that were for everyone.