Mourners pay tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.
(photo credit: ANNA HIATT)
NEW YORK – Outside the 9/11 Memorial Museum in downtown Manhattan, the plaza overflowed with tributes and tokens Friday morning, the day after the 13th anniversary of the most deadly terrorist assault on America. Mourners had stuck flowers into the memorial, and though they’d begun to wilt, the crowd of visitors surged.
The line of visitors waiting to go through security and get into the museum wound around the crowded plaza. On Thurday, the 13th anniversary of the attacks, the museum, which was open only to victims’ families, had more than 3,300 visitors.
Inside the museum the next day, throngs of visitors overwhelmed the main exhibition hall, filing past video clips from the day of the attack and stopping to check out items donated to the museum.
The museum’s main exhibit, which chronicles in detail September 11 and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, is overflowing with documents, media, and donated or found objects. In the history section is a poster Brooklyn resident Cheryl Stewart made for her yard to keep track of the number of days Osama bin Laden had been at large since 9/11.
The count ends at nine years and 232 days.
Next to the sign is a matchbook featuring a picture of Osama bin Laden and a reward amount. The United States government printed and distributed these matchbooks to encourage civilians to report any tips about the terrorist’s whereabouts. The US used the same matchbook tactic after the 1993 World Trade Center bombings to successfully track down bomber Ramzi Yousef.
At the edge of Foundation Hall is a new exhibit, opened just before the 13th anniversary, about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Given the sheer volume of the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s archive, the Osama bin Laden exhibit is relatively small. Museum director Alice Greenwald is keeping her fingers crossed that the museum will receive more items relating to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. They are looking for as much documentation as they can get.
Pinned on display in a small glass cabinet is a shirt one member of US Navy SEAL Team 6 wore under his body armor during the raid. New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney helped to connect the Marine with the museum.
To the right of the shirt are two challenge coins awarded to “Maya,” the CIA operative who spent years tracking bin Laden and was portrayed as the protagonist in Zero Dark Thirty, the thriller depicting the hunt for the terrorist leader. A number of US government agencies award commemorative challenge coins for work on important missions.
The last scene in Zero Dark Thirty depicts “Maya” sitting in the hangar deck of an aircraft carrier before leaving the Middle East. In real life, she looked up at the ceiling of the hangar and saw an American flag hanging. Moved by what the US had finally accomplished, “Maya” shot a picture of the flag with her camera phone, a copy of which is mounted in the Osama bin Laden exhibit.
One side of “Maya’s” challenge coin is marked with the date he was killed: May 1, 2011.
The other side is marked with a red X, referencing the list of wanted terrorists that then president George W. Bush kept in his Oval Office desk. Whenever one of the wanted men was captured or killed, Bush would mark off the name with a red X.
The last section of the exhibit features a brick from bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound. A journalist who had been covering the war on terrorism for years pried the brick from the compound’s wall and donated it.
Projected on a wall is a timeline called “Through the Lens of 9/11,” which was designed to give visitors a sense of trends over the years in news stories referencing 9/11. The timeline shows a surge of news stories shortly after bin Laden was killed in May 2011.
“It’s clear from the world we live in today that [bin Laden’s death] wasn’t the end of the war on terrorism,” Greenwald said.