I believe most of us remember where we were on September 11, 2001, when four planes were turned into weapons and crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania countryside. I was already at work here at the Library when I became aware of a group of staff clustered around a television in our audiovisual services area. When we realized the magnitude of what was happening we opened our big meeting room to the public, showing the ongoing news coverage on the big screen there. In the Library’s annual report for that year, Director Susan Craig described what it was like: “It was incredible to sit in the darkened room and watch the news with strangers, some in small groups, most just individuals. When I was there no one actually spoke, but I felt a connection with everyone in the room.”
The Stories They Tell: Artifacts from the National September 11 Memorial Museum reconnects us to the events that day and the long recovery process that followed. The Museum is part of the September 11 memorial site where the Twin Towers once stood. The pictures in this book are simple but evocative. The essays which accompany them—more like letters to the reader—are written by staff members of the Museum.
Many of the artifacts in the Museum are from the crash sites; others include the transcripts from phone calls from people on the planes, missing-person posters that blanketed New York City, and the Memorial Urn, with the names of the 2,977 victims on it, created by ceramicist Tom Lane.
It is difficult to choose just one or two examples to tell you more about. Should it be the recording of flight attendant Betty Ong’s hijack report? Or Karyn’s flight attendant wings, or the Last Column at Ground Zero, or patrol dog Sirius’s leash, or the wreckage of Engine 21 of the Fire Department of New York?
Each story brought goose bumps or tears, and often both. The professionalism of the flight attendants on the planes and the emergency responders on the ground, the many expressions of compassion and generosity during the tragedy and in its aftermath are unforgettable reminders of the prevailing goodness in humanity. If you are unable to visit the Museum in person, this book is the next best way to witness that.