Mapping September 11, 2001: Cartographic Narrative in the Print Media

  • Robert R. Churchill
  • Suzanne J. Slarsky


The attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were unprecedented in scope if not in their fundamental nature. While the United States moved toward resurrection of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, known popularly as “Star Wars”, and focused its resources on sophisticated weaponry, terrorists with primitive weapons turned commercial aircraft into guided missiles. The suddenness and enormity of the events, coupled with the fact that so many people were acquainted with victims of the attacks, created a sense of concern and confusion that was more pervasive and ubiquitous than evoked by either the 1993 bombing of the Trade Center or the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building. In the immediate aftermath, the events of September 11attracted the sympathies of the entire country, evoked both an outpouring of patriotism and a rhetoric of retribution, and temporarily redefined task saliencies (Wright, 1978) as firefighters and law enforcement officers became heroes of the moment.

The media also assumed a heightened level of importance as people turned to television, the Internet, and print for information and for insight and meaning. On September 11, the New York Times recorded over 21 million page views on their site, more than twice the previous record, and a six-month circulation audit by the Times following September 11 showed daily gains of approximately 42,000 newspapers (Robinson, 2002). Since the number of maps appearing in the media has grown rapidly with the advent of desktop computing and electronic publishing technologies (Monmonier, 1989; 2001), it is not surprising that much of the story of September 11 has been illustrated with maps. At the very least, these maps offer distinctive insights that help define both the events and the public reaction, but a paradigm shift that emphasizes their textual nature suggests that in addition to illustrating the attacks and the subsequent events, maps cast their own narratives of these events. Our purpose here is to explore these narratives through a systematic examination of maps that appeared in the print media in the period immediately following September 11.

How to Cite
Churchill, R. R., & Slarsky, S. J. (2004). Mapping September 11, 2001: Cartographic Narrative in the Print Media. Cartographic Perspectives, (47), 13-27.
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