GENESIS OF SEVERE CLEAR 9/11: 136 Untold Stories

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Severe Clear 9/11 Giving
One of many displays of pictures, messages, and memorabilia left by grieving families and friends of victims, and by those still searching.

The Severe Clear 9/11 Project was launched two days after the attacks.

I was attending a long-scheduled business meeting in Westchester County. Everyone showed up. Not, it turned out, to discuss whatever deal was on the table, but because we were each in shock and mourning. As if being in a bland windowless room talking about routine things would somehow help integrate us into this new reality.

After a half-hearted attempt to stick to the agenda, we began to rehash what seemed surreal details of the cruelties and deaths of two days before.  Most of us had never met before. Some of us perhaps should have been with family or friends. We were desperate together. Desperate to believe that today was a day like any other. That we had a schedule. Desperate to ignore the feeling of moving slow-motion through a nightmare.

We were desperate together. Desperate to believe that today was a day like any other.


After the meeting, business cards were exchanged. One belonged to the owner of a website company for nonprofits who was also the son of a firefighter. I’m trained as a journalist and editor. Within days a website was launched and receiving stories.  Story contributors found it mainly through word of mouth. It was originally named WitnessToWar.

It was not anticipated then that I and my co-volunteer, Dominic Gadoury, would be receiving so many stories, nor the time it would take to properly screen and edit them, develop and maintain the website, call writers, get permissions to publish. For eight months I gave up my day job and volunteered all my time to the stories and the strangers who sent them, touched by their despair, healing, vulnerability, kindness, self-reflection.

After eight months, I ran out of time and self-funding. Then I returned to a paying job. Then life happened. I had a family, a child. Nearly twenty years went by.

Inevitably, we wanted to find a way to help the survivors and their families, to do something as a way to regain some kind of reassuring control over chaos.

The stories moved with me three times in a large-sealed envelope across two states. The power of their words followed along.

I’ve re-read them all again, and their poignancy and power seem to have grown despite the passing time. Or perhaps because of it.

They are ready to go home—into the larger world—where they were intended and should have been long ago.

With your help, we can make it happen.


Terri Laxton Brooks

Founder & Executive Director



Terri Laxton Brooks  CEO

Dominic Gadoury   COO & Director, Marketing Technology

Bess White   CFO

Mary Quigley & Sara Wass   Research

Patricia Stotter   Creative Consultant

Yvonne Singleton   Database Manager

Special Thanks to Jim Feuerstein & Jane Gennarelli at Loft Developers of: This Special Project Site contains resources on ways to help heal from trauma related to 9/11 and to Covid-19.