9/11 StoryCorps animations from the Rauch Brothers

The 9/11 media blitz is well under way, and will rise steadily by the hour until we hit total saturation on Sunday. I’ve been subjecting myself to quite a bit already, ranging from news analysis to anecdotal retellings. Regarding the latter, NPR certainly knows how to go to the heart of the emotional matter, but it’s been this series of Rauch Brother animations that have so far been the most resonant material for me. The Rauch’s have basically created a visual to a selection of 9/11 StoryCorps interviews, part of the oral history project which, amongst many other goals, aims to record one interview for every life lost. If you haven’t encountered StoryCorp before, it’s fantastic. Members of the public simply book an appointment and then bring a friend or loved one to a roving StoryCorp “booth” for an interview about his or her life. The StoryCorp site features edited excerpts from these interviews, categorized by topic. And, as one might imagine, there’s a sizable 9/11 section. The Rauch Brothers use their playful style for these heartbreaking stories, lending them an extraordinarily moving, as well as surreal effect; We’re watching cartoons suffer, for Godssake.

Why does this feel more satisfying than simply watching real interviewees emote? The key has to be somewhere in the contrast. Such silly, endearing characterizations lend humor, sure, but also pathos. The human voice becomes the grounding element, drawing us in, while the cartoons have this otherworldly and almost distancing effect, which, oddly enough, only seems to bring the voice even closer. The drama is heightened by the fact that we can’t see the speaker – the connection greater through this disconnect. It doesn’t hurt either that the drawings are brilliant, executing literal depictions of the actions described as well as visually representing the emotions of the speaker. Two of my favorites are “She was the one” and “Always a family.” Get your hankies out.