The Atlantic Daily: 20 Years of Grief

For those who lost loved ones on 9/11, grief is anything but linear.

Tomorrow marks 20 years since the attacks on September 11, 2001. The adrenaline shock of that morning has long worn off, leaving behind only the horror, the loss, and two decades’ worth of grief.

It’s tempting to use this anniversary to consider the attacks as a greater political or cultural moment, to analyze where the country went right or wrong in its response. And doing so is important. But for today’s newsletter, I want to take a look at what that day meant to some of the people most deeply affected by it.

The mourning process, as my colleague Jennifer Senior wrote in this month’s magazine, doesn’t unfold neatly. Instead, those who lost loved ones—their co-workers, their friends, their partner, their child—are left working through the complicated contours of their grief, even now.

The McIlvaines lost their son, Bobby. They’ve each coped in their own way.

His mother, Helen, kept her grief close, while his father, Bob Sr., wore his on his sleeve. Jennifer, a staff writer whose brother was Bobby’s college roommate, examines their search for meaning.

Glenn Vogt lost 79 employees. He’s still looking for permission to move on.

These days, Vogt, who at the time of the attack ran the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center, is angry. He talked with his cousin, our staff writer Tim Alberta, in hopes of finding some peace.

After Ellen S. Bakalian lost her husband, she raised their daughters alone.

“I wanted our daughters’ lives to be as close to what they would have been if Jeff were alive to help me raise them,” she wrote in this 2019 essay. “I told my girls that we would continue to do the things that ‘Mommy and Daddy planned to do.’”

An aerial photo of protestors wearing yellow and green.
(Amanda Perobelli / Reuters)

Revisit the week that was. Our senior editor Alan Taylor offers a recap through photography selections from around the world.

Read. So long, summer beach reads. Hello, big fall book releases. This week, eager readers got new novels from the stalwarts Sally Rooney (Beautiful World, Where Are You) and Lauren Groff (Matrix). Still to come later this month: a crime novel from Colson Whitehead.

Watch. Worth, a Netflix movie about the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, reminds us that tragedies can’t be neatly quantified.

Listen. The McIlvaine family also joined us for this week’s episode of The Experiment to discuss their son Bobby’s death on 9/11 and the grief that followed.