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Visitors Flood Newseum after Terror Attacks - 2001-09-24

The Newseum, an Arlington, Virginia museum about news coverage, serves as something of a media "town square" during major world events. Its News Wall, a screen spanning a city block in length, displays TV news reports from around the world and beneath it, showcases the day's front pages from American and international newspapers. Following the attacks on New York City and Washington, the Newseum is again a focus of interest because of its News Wall and a new exhibit about the tragic events.

Located just a few kilometers from the Pentagon, the Newseum has had a surge in the number of visitors following the recent attacks, as Newseum managing editor Margaret Engel explains. "In the first few days after the disaster, we were flooded with people because they wanted to see the news as it happened around the world," she said. "So our nine [segment] wide-screen video [area] was filled with people at the overlook, and particularly at our front-page exhibit. Everyone wanted to know how the story played in their hometown paper. We also put up an 'instant' exhibit the next morning, Wednesday, of huge, oversized photographs of the disaster as it was portrayed around the world. We had many people come in on their lunch hours and in the mornings to see this."

The Newseum's photographic exhibit, "America Under Attack," was culled from 900 images and includes photographs of people evacuating the World Trade Center site in New York City, as well as pictures of Afghan refugees fleeing to neighboring Pakistan.

On the day following the attack - with smoke still smoldering from the site of the U.S. Department of Defense headquarters nearby Ms. Engel and her staff continued their daily routine of assembling the news wall print display, choosing 80 from among 95 newspaper front pages from around the world. "We found there are really two types: There's the newspaper of record that did a three-deck headline that was really descriptive," said Margareth Engel. "Then there were many, many more that used an oversized photograph and one word, like 'Terror,' 'Horror,' and the most infamous one on the San Francisco Examiner, which used the headline 'Bastards.'"

Margaret Engel, a former reporter for The Washington Post and Des Moines Register, was particularly interested in the news coverage from Middle East newspapers. "It was uniformly a reaction of total condolence and horror," she said. "We had all the Arabic newspapers translated. They were straight down the middle, reporting that this had happened. Only in the third day did some of the Arabic papers have a few threads, it's going to be very tough for the Arabic world, and some peculiar headlines saying something like, 'Congress Blaming Secret Service For Not Doing Its Job.'"

Ms. Engel noted that one newspaper, the state-run al-Iraq, described the attacks as just 'punishment,' saying, "Now America is gaining the fruits of its worldwide crime." As Managing Editor Engel studied the coverage of the terrorist attacks, she says she was especially impressed by the efforts of one newspaper, which lost its downtown New York offices following the event. "I don't want to miss telling people about the Wall Street Journal, which is located at 200 Liberty Street right next to the World Trade towers," she said. "They obviously couldn't publish from those offices. They all had to flee those offices. They essentially published from different editors' home offices in their apartments. They also had operation offices in New Jersey. So they had a huge logistical feat in getting that paper out. It's truly a marvel that they did."

In recent days, the crowds at the Newseum video and print news wall have diminished largely because many tourist and school groups have cancelled visits to Washington. But local residents, such as Chuck Moran, still come to scan the front pages. "I was mostly struck by the war aspect of everything is being mentioned," he said. "That's the top headline. I was also struck by the pictures of service people leaving. That newspaper Suddeutche Zeitung comes from our youngest son's hometown. He lives in Munich, Germany now."

Chuck Moran, among the many visitors to the video and newspaper news wall at the Newseum in Arlington, Virginia, which has become a focal point for showing world news coverage of the recent attacks on America.