SEPTEMBER 11
BEARING WITNESS TO HISTORY

Curator Stories

Department of Justice telephone

Ted Olson, U.S. solicitor general, received two calls on this office telephone from his wife, Barbara Olson, as her hijacked airplane headed toward the Pentagon.

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"So many people spoke by phone to each other that day..."

 

Pentagon rescuer's name tag and medal

These artifacts from Lt. Comdr. David Tarantino include his uniform name tag and Navy/Marine Corps Medal.

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"What began as just a small name tag led us to this incredible rescue story..."

 

Pentagon rescuer's uniform

This material from Capt. David Thomas, Pentagon survivor and rescuer, includes his uniform trousers, shirt, undershirt, and two quarters.

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"What began as just a small name tag led us to this incredible rescue story..."

 

Clothing worn in escape from the Pentagon

This material from Jerry Henson, Pentagon survivor, includes his tie, trousers, and ID badge.

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"What began as just a small name tag led us to this incredible rescue story..."

 

Pentagon firefighter’s gear

Pentagon firefighter Mark Skipper wore this bunker gear (firefighting jacket and pants) and casual shirt and pants on September 11.

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"...The whole back of the fire truck had melted."

 

Mortuary affairs collection

This collection of material from the 311th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs) includes a unit sign, personal effects identification book, mortuary processing equipment.

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"We walked into this room which was essentially a warehouse of material..."
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"...they would gently clean the material..."

 

Pentagon photographs

This collection of approximately 1,600 images taken by Michael Garcia, Ssgt. Brian Boisvert, and Cpl. Jason Ingersoll show the Pentagon immediately after the September 11 attack and during the following week.

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"...his I.D. got him very close to the building right after the crash..."

 

Pentagon fire truck panel

This panel was part of Foam Truck 161 operated by the Fort Myer Fire and Emergency Services Division, Pentagon Station.

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"...The whole back of the fire truck had melted."

 

Pentagon rescuer's uniform and artifacts

This material from Officer Isaac Ho‘opi‘i includes his uniform (shirt with insignia, trousers, boots, and name tag), his shield, his dog Vito’s collar and shield, a K-9 patch, and a poster of Vito.

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"...he used his deep baritone voice to call out 'Follow my voice.'"

 

Portrait of Isaac Ho‘opi‘i

Fashion photographer Richard Avedon took this photograph of Isaac Ho‘opi‘i.

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"...he used his deep baritone voice to call out 'Follow my voice.'"

 

World Trade Center steel

This collection of steel from the World Trade Center includes a heavily damaged column assembly from the outside column ring at the 70th floor of the south tower, and two short column stubs.

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"... a crashing crescendo of sound—smashing steel into these barges..."
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"... I felt as if I was on Antarctica, at an Antarctic base of some kind."

 

Window washer’s squeegee handle

Jan Demczur, a window washer at the World Trade Center, used this brass Ettore Corp. squeegee handle (now missing its brass channel and rubber blade) to escape from an elevator on September 11.

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"...asked him the big question: Do you still have that squeegee handle?"

 

Crushed file cabinet

This crushed file cabinet was recovered from the debris pile at the World Trade Center.

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"... it was a ball of metal about the size of a basketball..."

 

Briefcase recovered from World Trade Center

This briefcase recovered from the World Trade Center wreckage belonged to Lisa Lefler, an Aon Risk Services employee.

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"...not the sort of thing we would collect unless it had some extraordinary, iridescent story."
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"...We have convinced her that these shoes would be welcome here at the museum... "

 

Airplane fragments

These seven airplane fragments were recovered from the World Trade Center debris pile.

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"...we have had unusual cooperation"
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"Airplanes made this happen, so we could not ignore the airplanes..."

 

Clothing worn during World Trade Center escape

Maria Cecilia Benavente, an employee of Aon Risk Services, Inc., wore this clothing as she evacuated her 103rd-floor office in the south tower of the World Trade Center.

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"...We have convinced her that these shoes would be welcome here at the museum... "

 

Fire warden's flashlight

This flashlight (marked “W. T. C. FIRE SAFETY”) was issued to Hilary North, a fire warden for Aon Risk Services, Inc.

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"...the broader question of terrorism at the World Trade Center."

 

New York Fire Department material

This collection of New York Fire Department (FDNY) equipment recovered from the debris of the World Trade Center includes a door and tail light panel from a crushed fire truck, two axe heads, and two firefighter’s pry bars.

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"The Smithsonian now has a fire truck door from the New York Fire Department..."

 

K-9 search equipment

New York State Trooper Rick Scranton and his search dog Theo used this equipment to find victims of the World Trade Center collapse.

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"...I called the unit, and the man who answered became our donor..."

 

Apron from Nino's Restaurant

This apron is covered with uniform patches from grateful patrons of Nino's restaurant, a relief center for World Trade Center recovery workers.

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"...his restaurant was cranking, 24 hours a day, every day of the week with volunteer workers and donated food..."

 

New York Fire Chief's equipment

FDNY Battalion Chief Joseph Pfeifer wore this clothing and bunker gear on September 11.

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"They happened to be there on September 11 and they tilted their camera up..."

 

Survivor's photographs of World Trade Center

This collection of 110 images was taken inside and outside the World Trade Center on September 11 by John Labriola, amateur photographer and independent contractor with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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"John Labriola, an amateur photographer carrying a Nikon digital camera on his way to work on September 11..."

 

Video camera

Jules Naudet used this camera to film the only known footage of the first airplane hitting the north tower of the World Trade Center, and the activity of the firefighters' command center inside the lobby of the north tower.

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"They happened to be there on September 11 and they tilted their camera up..."

 

World Trade Center tourist souvenirs

This collection of World Trade Center tourist souvenirs was recovered from the debris of the World Trade Center.

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"...there were really no large objects recovered..."

 

Building safety equipment

This fire warden's whistle and badge were recovered from the debris of the World Trade Center.

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"...there were really no large objects recovered..."

 

Stairwell sign from the World Trade Center

This damaged floor marker, labeled “Stairwell C, Floor 102,” was recovered from the debris of the World Trade Center.

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"...there were really no large objects recovered..."

 

Windows on the World restaurant objects

Artifacts collected from Windows on the World, a well-known World Trade Center restaurant, include a bottle of champagne, dinner spoon, table lamp, champagne flute, soup bowl, salad plate, dessert plate, and coffee cup.

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"How did I get these if everything was destroyed during the collapse?"

 

Windows on the World uniform

This uniform (skirt, jacket, and lapel pin) was worn by Beatriz Susana Genoves, a greeter for the Windows on the World restaurant on September 11.

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"...she was there directing people to the restaurant when the plane hit..."

 

Staten Island recovery site material

This rake, pitchfork, detective’s windbreaker, and sign were used at the Staten Island recovery site, also known as Fresh Kills Landfill.

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"Mountains--mountain ranges of steel, of aluminum dominated the skyline..."
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"... stripped off and folded up like wrapping paper during the collapse of the buildings."
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"... I felt as if I was on Antarctica, at an Antarctic base of some kind."
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"...but the honor they were giving to the people, the work they were doing, is represented by these hand tools."

 

Messages of support

These cards and letters were sent to rescue workers, fire departments, and police officers offering thanks for their help and efforts at the crash site of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

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"...people were coming in from Japan to see that site and to leave offerings at the location..."
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"...it will be years before all of the artifacts that are important to this collection will be in the museum."

 

Shanksville photographs

This collection of fourteen images of the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 was taken by Tim Shaffer of Reuters.

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"...the response is 'No, go to Shanksville, Pennsylvania.'"

 

Artist's scrapbook

Michelle Guyton, an artist and poet from Mobile, Alabama, created this interpretive scrapbook reflecting on the events around September 11, 2001.

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"...when September 11 happened she knew what she had to do to create this book."
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"I have an almost visceral reaction to this."
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"There is a kind of optimism about human nature that comes through..."

 

Patriotic tie tack

This heart-shaped tie tack, designed by Judith Jack and sold through the Nordstrom department store chain, is enameled red, white, and blue, to resemble an American flag.

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"It was fall, people were wearing coats, so anybody could wear a tie tack..."

 

Safety-pin flag jewelry

These two beaded American flag pins were made soon after September 11.

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"And then I started noticing the safety pin jewelry."

 

Patriotic ribbon

This simple red, white, and blue ribbon pin was made by Annette Harris of Virginia Beach, Virginia, after September 11.

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"You started seeing them everywhere, and people were handing them out."

 

Pin comemmorating attack sites

This tie tack, in the shape of a pentagon with an image of the World Trade Center, was manufactured by R&N Jewelers of Margate, Florida, and was sold through the internet.

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"...this was their thank-you to the museum."
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"It was fall, people were wearing coats, so anybody could wear a tie tack..."

 

World Trade Center aluminum

This crumpled piece of exterior sheathing from the World Trade Center was recovered from the debris pile.

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"... stripped off and folded up like wrapping paper during the collapse of the buildings."

 

Map to the Flight 93 crash site

This directional flyer, handed out by tollbooth operators at the Somerset exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, gives driving instructions to the United Airlines Flight 93 crash site and temporary memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

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"...people were coming in from Japan to see that site and to leave offerings at the location..."

 
David Shayt, September 11 Collecting Curator. Museum Specialist, Division of Cultural History
David Shayt, September 11 Collecting Curator. Museum Specialist, Division of Cultural History