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Located more than 100 miles away from New York City, New London, Conn., may seem an unlikely source of information relevant to the events of September 11, 2001. But when Associate Professor of History Jim Downs asked students in his new course, "Historicizing 9/11 Internationally and Locally," to interview local residents about their experiences and reactions to 9/11, they found New Londoners who remain haunted by the attacks and had worthwhile stories to share.
Their stories were so compelling, in fact, that the students compiled them into a documentary titled "Historicizing 9/11: New London." The film premiered to a full house at the College on May 8 and will be added to the archives of the New London Historical Society.
"This project offers a rare opportunity for ordinary people's lives to be captured in the archive," said Downs, who wrote an article about the film for the Huffington Post. "Without it, many of these people's experiences, reactions and history would be lost. The students have created a unique opportunity to leave a record of the present for the future."
And that record will be left on film, not a medium with which the students are familiar. "We're not film studies students," said Andrew Nathanson '13, one of 30 students involved in the production of the documentary. "Everybody had a different background coming into this project. From the interview stage to the actual production of the movie, we all took on roles that fit our specific strengths."
Downs said those roles included interviewing, editing, producing, even creating a public relations media team. Nathanson and Melanie Thibeault '14 did a press junket for the radio the morning of the documentary and were interviewed by the New London Patch. The New London Day also picked up the story.
"The students got the opportunity to learn how to not only make a film but also how to edit it, produce it and publicize it," Downs said.