Since last September, history major Katelyn Gamba ’15 has spent two days per week listening to living history as narrated by the people who experienced it. Her work as an intern for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is helping to preserve the story of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Gamba does not work in the museum’s public display area; her desk in the museum offices, located on the 16th floor of 200 Liberty Street, overlooks the museum and the memorial plaza where the footprints of the Twin Towers are marked by two enormous waterfalls. She often looks out and thinks about the towers’ massive absence, while she transcribes for posterity the stories of survivors, first responders, law enforcement personnel, and family members of the deceased.
Gamba herself was only eight years old when the attacks happened, but she has distinct memories of that day and its effect on her and on her town, Cranford, New Jersey, about 20 miles southwest of the World Trade Center. The children were sent home from school, and for days afterward they were not allowed to play outside because of the thick black smoke that drifted over from Ground Zero. She has an abiding fear of flying.
“It was really confusing and for years, I didn’t understand what had happened,” she says.
Now, she knows a lot. At Wagner, she took two classes taught by Jenny Pachucki, an adjunct faculty member who is the oral historian and associate curator of the audio collection for the museum. One class was focused on museums and memorials, and the other on September 11. Gamba became intrigued and applied to work with Pachucki at the museum to fulfill her internship requirement as a senior history major.
After one semester, she didn’t want to stop, so in spring 2015 Gamba extended her internship for college credit.
Besides working with the stories from the museum’s collection of 800 audio interviews, Gamba is also doing research on objects donated to the museum and helping to write acquisitions rationales, which describe the object’s meaning and significance. An acquisitions committee reviews these documents to decide about adding items to the museum’s collections.
“That work is so helpful to us, and so important. Interns have a really direct role at the 9/11 Museum,” says Pachucki. “You can see their work in the museum and reflected in the collection. Katelyn has done a lot and has a strong work ethic and she works quickly, but there is still a huge amount of work to be done.”
Gamba says that learning so much about September 11 has influenced her interest in working in the anti-terrorism law enforcement field. “I feel really lucky to get to hear these stories and to get to be here and have this opportunity.”