If you visited the New York Times home page earlier this morning, you couldn’t miss the interactive feature “Reviving Ground Zero” by Gabriel Dance, Tom Jackson and Graham Roberts. (It’s since been pushed down by President Obama’s first press conference in three months.) But if you haven’t seen “Reviving Ground Zero,” it’s worth seeking out. In it, a time lapse slideshow of an aerial view of the World Trade Center site flips rapidly through July 2008 to July 2010, accompanied by reporter David W. Dunlap’s narration of the progress and white boxes highlighting major changes to surrounding buildings.
Additional tabs show illustrations of what the center could look like in 2014, and cross-sections of the proposed museum space and subway interfaces underground. Each layer can be dragged over the previous one, and each includes Dunlap’s narration of the various aspects of the planned site, as 360-degree photos pop up from the main illustration.
The Times has developed a number of impressive interactive features on the subject of the World Trade Center and the 9/11 terror attacks, which are also worth revisiting. Some of the most notable: “102 Minutes,” an animated and narrated reconstruction of the final minutes inside the two towers, seemed pretty cutting edge at the time it went up in 2002. Another from that year, “How The Towers Stood and Fell,” examined and illustrated the towers’ architectural components, some of which contributed to their collapse.
I would imagine that a reason Times has been able to put together so many interactive packages like this is the wealth of audio and visual material available for them to work with. Perhaps no other moment in recent history has been so closely examined, re-evaluated, and re-lived: through illustration, animation, photography, video, charts, graphs, and oral histories.
And there may be no other news item that calls out so desperately for these kinds of interactive experiences that the Times and other news organizations can offer; anything that they can do, even now, nine years later, to help us readers understand.