The Atlantic staff writer Jennifer Senior has won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. She was awarded journalism’s top honor for her remarkable September 2021 cover story, “What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind,” which looked at one family’s heartbreaking loss in the 9/11 attacks and their struggle to move on. This is The Atlantic’s second Pulitzer Prize, following Ed Yong’s 2021 Pulitzer for his reporting on the coronavirus pandemic.
The Pulitzer Board cited Senior’s “unflinching portrait of a family’s reckoning with loss in the 20 years since 9/11, masterfully braiding the author’s personal connection to the story with sensitive reporting that reveals the long reach of grief.”
“What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind,” told of a charming, ambitious young man named Bobby McIlvaine, who attended a conference in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Like thousands of other Americans that day, he never came home. On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Senior traced the fallout from her friend Bobby’s death, writing that she’d spent the years since watching “as everyone in the blast radius of this horrific event tried to make sense of it.” Her story, about love and grief, examined one family’s struggle to move forward. Through interviews with Bobby’s parents, his brother, his then-girlfriend, and his friends, Senior described how his family and friends shifted from praying together that Bobby was okay to processing the traumatic loss in different ways. Their grief pulled them apart and created unresolved tension about what had really happened in the weeks and months after 9/11.
The Pulitzer Prize follows Senior winning in the Feature Writing category at the 2022 National Magazine Awards, the annual honors from the American Society of Magazine Editors. The Atlantic also earned the top honor of General Excellence for a News, Sports, and Entertainment publication at the 2022 National Magazine Awards.
The Pulitzers further acknowledged the extraordinary work at The Atlantic; Staff writer Sophie Gilbert has been named a finalist in the Criticism category; the article “To Hell With Drowning,” by the freelance writer Julian Aguon, is a finalist in Commentary; and Zeynep Tufekci’s work for The Atlantic and The New York Times made her a finalist in Commentary as well.
“This is a wonderful moment for the writers who have earned this well-deserved recognition,” says Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic. “Jennifer’s story, her first for The Atlantic, is one of the most sophisticated pieces of magazine journalism we’ve ever encountered, a miracle of narrative, told with unmatched skill, empathy, and eloquence. Scott Stossel, her brilliant editor, has previously noted the symphonic quality of this story, and how masterfully Jennifer pulled off the reporting, the writing, and the structuring. Scott, of course, deserves credit for so much of our best work, including Jennifer’s piece.”
Senior joined The Atlantic as a staff writer in 2021. Prior to that, she was a columnist for the New York Times op-ed page. Before joining Opinion, Senior was one of the Times’s three daily book critics. She spent almost 20 years as a staff writer for New York magazine, writing profiles and cover stories about politics, social science, and mental health. Senior is also the author of the hugely popular book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.