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They lost loved ones in 9/11. We invited them to leave a voicemail in their memory

Updated September 11, 2022 at 9:24 AM ET

Voicemails are deeply embedded into memories of 9/11. On that day in 2001, as people all across New York City tried to get hold of their friends and family, cellphone networks were overloaded. And for some of the victims inside the planes and towers, leaving a voicemail was their last way of communicating with their loved ones.

In the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, NPR set up an old phone booth in Brooklyn Bridge Park — across the river from the new World Trade Center — and invited people to leave a voicemail for someone they lost that day.

By searching public records, reaching out to national survivors' networks, and collaborating with facilitators of 9/11 support groups on Facebook, we connected with six people who were willing to share their stories with us — people like Trish Straine, whose husband died in the north tower just six days after their second son was born; and Matthew Bocchi, who was only 9 years old when he lost his father in the attacks. Their individual experiences offer insight into the nature of grief and how it changes — or doesn't — over time.

This project is inspired by the Wind Phone, a phone booth set up in Japan by garden designer Itaru Sasaki for people to communicate with those they lost in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bronson Arcuri is an award-winning video producer and multimedia journalist. He is currently an editor and managing producer on the NPR video team. In addition to overseeing NPR's video coverage of the ongoing war in Ukraine, he also manages short-form video production for All Things Considered, Life Kit and NPR's international reporting and political coverage. He is also part of the leadership team developing news products for emerging platforms, including Instagram and TikTok.
Nick Michael is the Acting Supervising Editor for Video at NPR. He joined NPR in 2014 as the lead video producer for Jazz Night in America, NPR's first program with companion radio and video content. Jazz Night's 2017 portfolio earned a Peabody nomination and a Webby Award for Online Film & Video. Since then, he has co-managed the growth of NPR's award-winning video team, highlights of which include co-crafting the look of NPR's signature interviews with President Obama, leading NPR's experimentation with 360 video and audio and coordinating 22 filmmakers across the country to document 2017's solar eclipse. Before NPR, Michael co-founded 1504, a creative video studio now based in Birmingham, Ala. He earned a masters in photojournalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.
Annabel Edwards
Mito Habe-Evans (she/her) co-manages NPR's Video team and is responsible for the creative direction and sensibility of NPR videos. She leads the team in its pursuit of projects that are "smart with heart," from the comedic economics explainer series Planet Money Shorts to the short film Senior Spring, a national portrait of teens and guns. She developed NPR's signature documentary style with What Democracy Looks Like and One Nation Under The Sun.
Trisha Pickelhaupt