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.
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid