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Comments: Week of September 19, 2011


The September 5–12 issue was devoted to the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, and featured at its center an A-to-Z omnibus “encyclopedia” documenting the day of the attacks and the ten years that followed. “When I saw the cover of the 9/11 issue, I thought, ‘Oh, no, I can’t bear to read any more about it.’ Two hours later I was still reading,” wrote Ann Russell, in a letter. (The issue provoked more snail mail than we’ve received in years.) Many commenters, bloggers, and tweeters called out particular entries. “Peter ­Kaplan’s essay on pre- and post-9/11 New York is pretty powerful,” wrote ­­@davidtaint on Twitter. @VanGoldman complimented the “intelligent musings” of Michael Hirschorn on irony, which Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter declared dead after the attacks, and @lisamonetz praised Jim Holt’s riff on 9/11 humor: “It’s not easy to make an event like 9/11 seem funny.” At the Washington Post, Melissa Bell marveled at the fact, showcased alongside an entry on the Patriot Act, that the law’s expanded search powers had been used so many more times for drug cases than for terrorism. On Twitter, @ScottBlake praised the “amazing diagram … showing how artists responded,” and @SamanthaLNelson celebrated the inclusion of the Yankees, who “brought life to #NYC when it was needed the most. God bless.” The issue’s photography attracted special notice. “Wow, impact ­cover,” wrote blog Cover Junkie. “Page 17 I’m teary,” wrote @just_jotter, about a picture of ground zero a few weeks after the attacks. “No matter how many times I see it, it still hasn’t entirely sunk in.” Many were especially moved by an entry in which widow Beverley Eckert recounted her final conversation with her husband, who called from the 105th floor of the South Tower to say good-bye. “The story on page 70 just made me cry. Incredible!” wrote @AshleyKMayo. “Physically impossible not to,” tweeted @sweat­moustache. The responses to the issue included many tears—even Frank Rich’s essay, which declared 9/11 effectively over and suggested that the hijacking of the economy was now a bigger fear than the hijacking of airplanes, “made me cry,” wrote Tony Shaw, in a letter. “Then I realized what a great people and what a country we live in. Thanks for doing what you do best.” Others found that essay the first evidence of a pervasive political bias: “How disappointing to turn to the first story and read Frank Rich’s article bashing President Bush,” wrote Brent Olson. “Flipping a few more pages, it was quite apparent that New York simply published this double issue to focus on its odd obsession of hatred toward Mr. Bush.” Several readers were outraged by the narrow focus on the life of the city. “Fourteen lines for the ­Pentagon?” asked one. “Disgraceful. ­‘Terror sex’ got more notice in your ‘encyclopedia’ for God’s sake.” Another called it “a ­parody of New York self-­regard.” But the response to the issue as a whole was overwhelming—to its content but also to its reach. Joshua Keating, surveying the raft of 9/11 tributes at Foreign Policy, called it the most ambitious multi­media project of the anniversary.” On Twitter, The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza called the issue “great stuff” and @PeterHambyCNN said it was “stunning. Everyone needs to buy. It took me back.” “Every story from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ shed a new light on this cataclysmic event and the capacity of our people to wrest great good from enormous evil,” wrote Robert and Andrea Mahon, in a letter. “What an extraordinary and touching approach to covering the scale of this awful time in our nation’s history.” The encyclopedia “captures it all,” Sam Biddle wrote at Gizmodo. “It’s heartbreaking, locked in the past, and entirely current.” “The 9/11 Encyclopedia was equal parts fascinating and jarring. I read every single page,” wrote Sarah Walz in another letter. “I was 9 when the Towers came down, and I worry sometimes that people even just a year younger than me won’t remember anything about it. Through the years, I’ve come to understand more and more, but by reading through your encyclopedia, I finally have a grasp on the large impact of this terrible event and the indescribable pain New York went through.

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