The Stories They Tell: A preview of the 9/11 book

A new book gives readers a first glimpse at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum’s collection.

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The Stories They Tell

The Stories They Tell

In the two years since the 9/11 Memorial opened to the public, more than 9.5 million visitors have gazed into architect Michael Arad’s twin reflecting pools. And after nearly a decade of planning, the museum devoted to the September 11 attacks—built around and below the memorial—will open to the public this spring. The institution will house a historical exhibit dealing with the events leading up to, during and after 9/11; an area dedicated to the victims of both the 2001 tragedy and the 1993 bombing, with a Wall of Faces that features 3,000 portraits; a Foundation Hall containing a wall and a column from the original World Trade Center complex; and an education center and auditorium for public programming.


RECOMMENDED: See all September 11 memorial events


As a preview of what visitors will see once the museum opens, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum will release The Stories They Tell (Skira Rizzoli, $35; out Sept 10), a 160-page photo book (with a foreword by Mayor Bloomberg) that provides a look at some of the artifacts in its collection. “We have over 900 objects and thousands of videos and photos, so it’s only a tiny fragment, but it’s a cross section of what people will see,” explains Clifford Chanin, the institution’s vice president for education and public programming. Each item is accompanied by an essay explaining its significance and history; the backstories of the seemingly commonplace items, such as a red bandanna or a dog’s leash, are by turns inspiring and tragic. “These are very difficult stories for [people] to tell, because many of the objects are so closely linked to a loved one or a friend who was killed,” says Chanin. But that’s why the book devotes equal attention to both a survivor’s dusty black high heels and a metal fragment from American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. “These mundane objects are transformed into something of extraordinary historic and memorial value.”


  • Photograph: Matt Flynn / courtesy collection 9/11 Memorial Museum

    The Stories They Tell: Karyn's wings

    Flight attendant Sara Low was on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. At her memorial service, her former roommate and colleague, Karyn Ramsey, unpinned the service wings from her own uniform and gave them to Low’s father, who requested that an American military serviceman or woman wear them while deployed in Afghanistan. Sergeant Mark Baker of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment donned the pin on 20 missions in 2001 and 2002; his crewmates even created a ritual of rubbing it for good luck before a flight. Ramsey and Baker have both recorded statements for the museum, where the wings now reside. “Karyn’s wings are really quite small—they’re tiny,” says Chanin. “But when you realize how much symbolic importance has attached itself to this little pair of wings, it really does take on a different dimension.”

  • Photograph: Matt Flynn / courtesy collection 9/11 Memorial Museum

    The Stories They Tell: Sirius's leash

    Sirius, a four-and-a-half-year-old yellow Labrador, was on duty at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, as a member of the Port Authority Police Department’s K-9 Unit. “Sirius’s leash was donated by his handler, David Lim,” says Chanin. “The rule for handlers is that you have to have one hand on your dog at all times, and when he saw what was going on around him, he said, ‘I need my two hands.’ He put Sirius in his kennel and said he would come back for him, but of course, that never happened. It was a very emotional thing for Lim—Sirius was a member of his family, he lived with them and played with his kids.”  There was a full honor guard present for the removal of Sirius’s remains from the wreckage of the South Tower, and his name has been installed at the base of the War Dog Memorial at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.

Photograph: Matt Flynn / courtesy collection 9/11 Memorial Museum

The Stories They Tell: Karyn's wings

Flight attendant Sara Low was on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. At her memorial service, her former roommate and colleague, Karyn Ramsey, unpinned the service wings from her own uniform and gave them to Low’s father, who requested that an American military serviceman or woman wear them while deployed in Afghanistan. Sergeant Mark Baker of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment donned the pin on 20 missions in 2001 and 2002; his crewmates even created a ritual of rubbing it for good luck before a flight. Ramsey and Baker have both recorded statements for the museum, where the wings now reside. “Karyn’s wings are really quite small—they’re tiny,” says Chanin. “But when you realize how much symbolic importance has attached itself to this little pair of wings, it really does take on a different dimension.”


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