Steve Frank was starting his second work day as the staff historian at The National Constitution Center. He had just picked up a copy of The Constitution from a collector and was driving to delivered it to the Center when the attacks started. As the city shut down he decided to keep the document in his house.
Below are Steve’s recollections. Listen or read the audio transcripts:
And the next day I brought it back to the office and this was our first artifact and a real centerpiece for the Constitution Center. After all, it was the Constitution and that’s what we were dedicated to telling a story about and I put it on a conference table in a conference room and the staff gathered around and everybody just stood there silently looking at it. Any other day I think there would have been loud congratulations all around. But the significance of the document that day really struck us and what it represented, I think, was the true sense of that unity I felt when I had gone to pick it up, that it was the ideas embodied in that document that made us a people.
Certainly we live in a post 911 world. Our feelings about security and about personal privacy, all that has changed. The kind of national security state that we have developed and come to accept is different from the kinds of ideas and institutions we would have accepted previously. Whether we have struck the right balance only time will tell.
“This is a new world” :
Like most people I assume most people, those not directly impacted by it and those grieving went on with their lives but there was a very funny eerie mixture of emotions that had to do with that feeling that we had been attacked, we were vulnerable, and yet we had rallied together. I remember the flags flying on porches in my neighborhood, I remember the skies being silent because planes were grounded for a time and thinking this is different, this is a new world, and it was a mixture of sadness and solemnity and a feeling of coming together, it was a funny and unique feeling that I won’t ever forget.
I think that 911 and a lot of the events that have happened since then have raised the constitution in American consciousness. I think that people think about the Constitution consciously more than they did. Personally the more I learn about the Constitution and its history the more respect I have for the document and its durability. Also its flaws, even the framers of the Constitution didn’t believe that they had created a perfect document. That’s why they created the ability to amend it, but they did create a perfect set of ideals that have to do with individual liberty and inequality and I think that the Constitution provides a mechanism for us to achieve those ideals and that’s the kind of respect I have for its promise.
Produced and edited by Elisabeth Perez Luna