Harlem Artist Collects Emails from 9/11 in New Book
HARLEM — Misha McGlown had dropped her daughter off at school Downtown and stopped at a gas station on Canal Street and the West Side Highway when she saw a fireball coming from the World Trade Center.
She quickly picked her daughter up and headed home to Harlem. A few hours after the 9/11 attacks is when the emails started coming in.
"There were first-hand accounts, prayers, astrological interpretations, conspiracy theories and people trying to understand America's relationships with Muslim countries," said McGlown, a painter and author.
A friend who didn't have Internet acess at home asked her to print out some of the notes.
"It hit me that these emails were an authentic documentation of what people were saying and feeling. It wasn't things you were going to see or hear on the news. It was the voice of minorities and other outsiders," said McGlown.
With the 10th anniversary of the attacks coming up, McGlown decided to track down some of the email writers and publish their messages. The result is her new book, "911: Voices from the Outsider Media."
The book has hundreds of emails printed chronologically from 9/11 through Oct. 26, 2001. The conversations in the book range from fear of more attacks to messages of hop and the anthrax fears that swept the country a few months after 9/11.
"A few people said, 'I'm just sending this out to anyone who wants to read this.' They felt the information was relevant and wanted to share it," said McGlown.
One of the first e-mails was an account from a man who had to walk home from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. And then came mass emailed jingoistic reactions. "Go ahead and laugh now because the Tomahawks [missiles] are coming," one read.
A popular message was from author Noam Chomsky responding to the attacks. Another email said a 1921 article from the Atlantic Monthly titled: "Is There Anything in Prayer," was just as relevant around the time of 9/11 as it was more than half a century ago.
McGlown's favorite was an optimistic post about how the attacks could have taken many more lives than they did.
"It's unfortunate that anyone lost their lives but her point was they didn't cause as much destruction as they thought they would," said McGlown. "It doesn't take away any of the pain and suffering of family members but it changed my perspective."
McGlown reached out to many of the emails' authors but not all of them responded. Some, like a supposed email from someone in Palestine, were almost impossible to authenticate. Chomsky was one of the first to respond and granted permission for his work to be reprinted.
"The information in those emails gives us an opportunity to consider what happened that day but to also reflect on what has happened since then," said McGlown.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the "War on Terror" declared by President George W. Bush and the long-term effect of the attacks on the U.S. economy are some of the tangible effects of 9/11. Others are more difficult to touch upon.
"How did we get from here to there?" asked McGlown. "I still have so many unanswered questions about it all. This is one way of examining them."
McGlown is holding a book reading Saturday, Sept. 10, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Harlem Flo Boutique, located at 2276 Frederick Douglass Blvd. at 122nd Street in Harlem.