November 7, 2001: From the Editor

The Hartford Courant reporter wanted to know why. Why is PAW running personal remembrances of the alumni who were victims of the terrorist strikes? he asked. Why had we decided to handle it this way?

He called me on October 2, three weeks after the attacks and as I was in the midst of asking family members and friends and roommates and teammates to sum up their feelings of loss and memories of joy in 300 words. I had already talked to the reporter for 20 solid minutes — it was therapy, I recognized that — and now he was asking me why, even though he surely knew the answers as well as I did.

First, I said, it is a way of showing that their lives had meaning, that even though their lives were too short they meant so much to so many.

It is a way of putting stories and faces to the unthinkable numbers, in the faint hope that the very act of scaling down the horror to the size of human comprehension might somehow convey its magnitude.

It is a way of demonstrating the closeness of the Princeton community, that a stranger from Princeton could call or e-mail family members and friends looking for someone to write down memories and one, then two, then six people would offer up their stories and volunteer their time and say it was an honor to do so.

What I understood later, after I had hung up with the reporter, is that it is also a way of granting immortality to the 13 people whose stories appear in these pages. When in 50 or 100 years the editor of PAW or the president of the university or the keeper of the Princeton archives pages back through the years to see how PAW chronicled the violence of September 11, 2001, they will find these names and they will read about these lives and they will appreciate in some small measure our loss.

They don’t feel like much, these words that we lay down, but they are all we have. And that is the answer to the reporter’s question.


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