Cover of Portraits 9/11/01Remember the “Portraits of Grief” the New York Times published in the months after 9/11? The little stories about the individuals who perished that day that the NYT staffers put together after interviewing family members?

For me, there is no better tribute to 9/11 than reading those brief portraits, collected in the big coffee table book Portraits: 9/11/01.

We don’t have a coffee table, but for years that book graced the top of the mantle in our living room until it found a permanent home in the middle of our big wall of books. Every anniversary of 9/11, I take down that book, open it randomly, and read a few portraits:

Shannon Fava – She Dances in His Heart
Ronald C. Fazio – Still a Family Man
Francis J. Feely – Friend of “The Far Side”

Today it struck me that long before the rise of Twitter, the NYT writers endeavoured to come up with a short line to capture each person’s character. It is sad to have a life reduced to a sentence that is not even complete, and to 300 words in a big book. But at least that is there: The book, and the few minutes every year to remember those whom I did not know, who had their lives cut short in a tragedy none of us would have ever imagined.

There is a Yiddish saying: He who saves a life, saves the world.

Consequently, those who destroy a life, destroy the world. Thousands of worlds were destroyed on 9/11. Portraits 9/11/01 is a small tribute to those worlds.