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

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid