News / USA

Ordinary Items Bring Home Impact of 9/11

Smithsonian marks 10th anniversary by displaying objects recovered from three sites

This clock was hanging on the wall of a Pentagon helipad when the impact of the crash knocked it to the ground, freezing it in time.
This clock was hanging on the wall of a Pentagon helipad when the impact of the crash knocked it to the ground, freezing it in time.

A leather briefcase, a little girl’s doll, a handful of coins. These ordinary objects take on extraordinary meaning because of where they come from.

They are among the items recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania - the three sites involved in the most devastating terrorist attacks in U.S. history.

There are more than 50 artifacts in the “September 11: Remembrance and Reflection,” exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The items are laid out, uncovered, on three tables; one for every impacted site. There is also a table bearing newly-obtained objects from the Transportation Security Administration.

The decision to display the exhibit without protective cases was unusual for the Smithsonian, but deliberate, according to museum curator Cedric Yeh.

“We hope that it provides our visitors with a sense of intimacy, and gives them a chance to interact with the objects on a level that isn’t normally available.”

Among the most meaningful pieces in the collection, Yeh says, are materials donated by Isaac Ho‘opi‘i, a Pentagon police officer credited with saving many lives in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

After hearing a report on his patrol-car radio about the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, Ho‘opi‘i rushed to the destroyed portion of the building.

“Not only did he physically help remove people from the building,” says Yeh, “but he used his voice when the fires and smoke got too intense for him to return to the building.”

Image of first responder Isaac Ho‘opi‘i, who is credited with saving many lives at the Pentagon. The photo of Ho‘opi‘i is taken by Richard Avedon.
Image of first responder Isaac Ho‘opi‘i, who is credited with saving many lives at the Pentagon. The photo of Ho‘opi‘i is taken by Richard Avedon.

“He would call out to those still trapped inside the building and say, ‘Follow my voice,’ and just with his voice, people were able to orientate themselves and found themselves escaping the building. He affected so many people’s lives. He is still remembered by those he saved.”

The materials Ho‘opi‘i donated to the exhibit include his uniform, shield, his dog Vito’s collar and shield, a K-9 patch, and a poster of Vito.

Associate Curator Shannon Perich realized just how intense the conditions were in the Pentagon after seeing a handful of melted coins.

“When you see that clump of coins and you understand how hot that fire was, it makes your stomach turn," says Perich. "Those metals that are supposed to protect us, that rebar that is supposed to be strong and sturdy, is twisted like a straw, you began to really understand the power of the impact of when those planes hit.”

She is also moved by the standard-issue Pentagon office wall clock that froze at the moment of impact.

“It bounced off the wall, the batteries fell out and time stopped,” she says.

David Allison, associate director for Curatorial Affairs, is struck by the everyday nature of many of the objects in the display, such as a simple office telephone.

“The phone of the solicitor general, who was in contact with his wife who was on Flight 77, he made his last calls to her on that telephone. And I think being able to see that telephone is like a phone you might have on your own desk, and I think you can begin to envision what your life might be like if that had been your spouse," Allison says.

All fifty-three passengers, six crew members, and five hijackers were killed when the plane crashed into the Pentagon.

At the New York table, a crushed fire truck door is a reminder of the 343 members of the New York Fire Department who were killed trying to rescue people.

Airplane fragments, a seat belt and a personal logbook belonging to flight attendant Lorraine Bay are among the items on display at the Pennsylvania table. Bay was among the seven crew members and 33 passengers who were killed when Flight 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

"Each object has its own story and they’re connected to real individuals whose lives were changed, because all of our lives were changed,” says David Allison.

Close to 3,000 people lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks. The display provides a place for visitors to remember and share their personal experiences of that tragic day, says museum interim director Marc Pachter.

Pachter expects the items to play a critical role in educating future generations of Americans, those for whom September 11 will no longer be a personal memory.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs