Immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, family and friends of victims missing in the towers began placing ‘‘Missing Person Posters’’ of their loved ones around New York City. In this paper, we argue that the posters represent a powerful response to a traumatic and in some ways unprecedented situation, a response that transformed the death of loved ones from a reality or future certainty into a probability made possible by the searchers’ desire, emotions, or imagination. We demonstrate how the posters, operating in the ‘‘subjunctive’’ voice, transformed the ‘‘ liminal’’ space between life and death and ‘‘haunted’’ onlookers, so that survivors and spectators alike could ponder the possibilities of a world that would ‘‘hopefully’’ turn out for the best. We also consider the implications of the posters for those who were unable to acknowledge the loss of their loved ones.
Previously published in Communication Studies, 2007, vol. 58, pp. 105-121. http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rcst20