Although they are usually seen purely as a terrorist event, the attacks of September 11, 2001, had clear social dimensions. As we mark the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, my Social History article (46:3) opens a conversation about these little-known dimensions. I emphasize that the attack targets were workplaces, and most of those killed – close to 3,000 people – were at work. On the day of the attacks, Manhattan’s World Trade Center was home to 430 companies with more than 35,000 employees. My article seeks to explore the workers who were killed or survived the attacks, as well as the 90,000 more who toiled at Ground Zero in a lengthy – and dangerous – clean up process that left many scarred, physically and mentally.
On the tenth anniversary of the attacks, the Washington Post first identified these ‘invisible workers.’ As the twentieth anniversary approached, I wanted to try and detail their experiences more closely, and to draw some parallels with the Coronavirus crisis, another generation-defining event. Continue reading