Where Were You
Reviewed by: Emily Pagano
Review started: March 15, 2021
Review finished: April 26, 2021
Data and Sources
- Personal memories and reflections about 9/11 submitted by users
- Submissions have been assigned an entry number and made searchable by name, age, and location.
- Blurbs are listed in chronological order on a website unchanged since it was finished in 2002. Users can also search by name, age, or location, and browse by state, country, or age.
Digital Tools Used to Build It
- Information not prominently displayed on site
- Wappalyzer analysis of http://wherewereyou.org/: Apache web server
- The site and all submissions are in English
Where Were You is a project that attempts to capture the emotions of people in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001. The website asks, “Wouldn't it have been wonderful to have known what everyday people felt when Pearl Harbor was bombed or what the nation was thinking when the word Vietnam was first introduced into our nation’s psyche or when Kennedy was assassinated, and how those views changed as the events afterwards unfolded?” With this line of thinking, the project collected blurbs from the public on where they were and what they were doing on 9/11, how they felt, and what they wanted to see happen. The website also states that one of the goals was to preserve for future generations the way that this event deeply affected ordinary people all over the world.
The concept, design, and webmaster duties were done by 3 young people, only 19 at the time. Where Were You was an independent project that was not affiliated with any organization.
The website consists of 2,527 pages of shorts blurbs from people of all ages from all over the world reflecting where they were and how they felt on 9/11. They are listed in chronological order, with the first name, age, and general location of each submitter, as well as an entry number.
The site was launched just a few days after the event itself, on September 15, 2001, and ended on September 15, 2002, when the last submissions were accepted. There is no information on how submissions were collected, what methods participants used to submit them, or what guidelines participants might have been given. I’m very curious how they advertised this and made the call for submissions in a time before social media.
Users can browse by state, country, or age of the submitter. I find the idea to make them browsable by the submitter’s age to be an interesting choice, and I wonder if there is a reason for this. Users can also search by name, age, location, and entry number, but keyword searching does not work.
This project is mentioned in Preserving memory in the digital age: curatorial practices of 9/11 digital archives by Marissa Friedman. Friedman points out that this project fulfilled an important need in collecting the “historical-memorial” record of 9/11, which is bypassing the media and allowing people to have a voice in the discourse surrounding the event. This project aimed to “democratize the historical memory-making processes” and allowed people’s private memories to become part of the historical record. Where Were You, seemingly unchanged since 2002, currently feels like a moment frozen in time, offering a snapshot of unique, personal memories at a very specific point in history.