On behalf of the Society of American Archivists, its officers and staff, and its membership I want to express my profound condolences and deepest sympathies to the families and friends of all those affected, directly and indirectly, by Tuesday's horrific and tragic events in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. With an organization as large as SAA and with membership concentrations particularly high in the Washington and New York areas, it is almost dreadfully certain that some among us have been wounded grievously and our thoughts and prayers are certainly with them.
As unbearable as the tragic personal losses that so many have suffered might be, we also recognize that the assault our nation has endured goes beyond the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and hijacked airplanes. What we have witnessed is nothing less than a frontal attack on the very underpinnings of human civilization. As archivists we understand that we serve a vital role as gatekeepers to the history of that civilization; the documents within our respective repositories give us the perspective with which to see that humanity has undergone many such assaults in the past and to assess and judge these actions in their full context. It is an eerie irony that virtually the only thing that has survived the mass destruction of the World Trade Center is paper—much of it singed and dusty, but intact nonetheless. The streets of lower Manhattan along with the graveyards of Trinity and Grace Churches lie several feet deep in memos, letters, resumes, accounting records, reports and other papers that were at the core of the business of early Tuesday morning and that would have eventually found their way to our repositories. As unable as I am to make sense of the larger tragic events, I am equally at a loss to draw any significance from this phenomenon that wouldn't somehow trivialize the enormous personal and social losses that so many have suffered. Nonetheless, for me they serve as a silent and solemn reminder of the importance of our role in maintaining the evidentiary continuity of our civilization and cultures so that we might always learn and always remember.