Trauma at Home: After 9/11

Trauma at Home: After 9/11

Trauma at Home: After 9/11

Trauma at Home: After 9/11


The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, brought the effects of trauma home to millions in America and throughout the world. Initially, the attacks created a sense of paralysis and a narrative void. Now we find ourselves struggling as a nation to remember and rebuild. The distinguished writers in Trauma at Home confront September 11 from a variety of personal, cultural, scholarly, and clinical perspectives. Bringing together their wide-ranging reflections on understanding, representing, and surviving trauma, the book offers readers an array of analyses of the overwhelming events. Through the lenses of cultural studies, trauma studies, feminism, film and literary criticism, psychoanalytic theory, and through poetic and photographic images, the contributors use their disciplines to help make sense of the incomprehensible.

These essays and reflections address loss and examine our changed modes of perception, relations with others, and sense of home. Trauma at Home contains meditations on the personal and,cultural aftereffects of trauma and provides analyses of the historical echoes of Hiroshima, the Holocaust, and Vietnam that the attacks evoked. Collectively, these essays replace the silence of shock and disbelief with the possibility of dialogue-even as they also recognize the impossibility of providing a single cohesive narrative for the trauma of September 11.


By the time this book appears on the shelves, more than a year will have passed since September 11, 2001. The writers and readers of the essays will be at different places, places we cannot yet anticipate, as many of the essays observe. At the time of this book's composition, roughly six months after the attacks, Dori Laub acknowledges that the “truth” of 9/11 is “still fragmented, piecemeal, and disorganized, a story in search of a voice.” If the essays cannot document some fixed “truths” (and none claims to), what they can show are attempts to construct narrative, to find a voice, to create a “thread thrown between your humanity and mine, ” as Toni Morrison writes to the dead of 9/11.

Time became crucially important on 9/11. For people in theTwinTowers, where they were located and what time they tried to leave were facts of life and death. An awareness of temporality marks many of the essays: some are written in journal form, exposing the process of their formation; many essays contemplate the changing nature of their authors' responses and the need for time to assess this moment. The unpredictable reappearance of the past and a confusion of time, of course, are central concerns for trauma theory. At the heart of the structure of the reception of trauma lies a delay—experiences that resist knowing can return belatedly. As we construct narratives, we can look at how delays not only give us time to mourn but also complicate the very notion of 9/11 as a fixed “event.” “Memory is, after all, a process and is everlasting only when it remains a process and not a finished result, ” James Young reminds us in his essay.

The book's title itself emerged as a work in progress. And while publication grants the title a kind of permanence, it still possesses an unfinished quality, given the instability of the terms “home” and “trauma.” For me, “trauma at home” originally meant the arrival of massive violence in my backyard—in downtown New York. We see this meaning in the essays . . .

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