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9/11 artifacts from the smithsonian A squeegee handle from the World Trade Center, Filght 93 flight attendant Lorraine Bay's log book, and coins from the Pentagon are a few of the exhibits on display at the Smithsonian. (Photos: Richard Strauss)

Fragments of 9/11

Washington, D.C., observes 10th anniversary with Smithsonian exhibit

By Nick Berray | September 8 , 2011

With the upcoming 10th anniversary of 9/11, Washington, D.C. has been a buzz of activity as our nation's capital prepares for the day of remembrance. One of the most noted events in the area is September 11: Bearing Witness to History at the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History. The exhibit will be on view for eight days and includes 9/11 artifacts and fragments, ranging from items like a broken squeegee handle to a logbook from United Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The Scholastic Kids Press Corps visited the exhibit this week. Melinda Machado, Director of Public Affairs, spoke with this Kid Reporter and contributed profound insight on the display.

The first of the two rooms of the exhibit is composed of four separate tables: one table for each of the three crash sites (New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville), and a fourth table for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which was created in direct response to the September 11 attacks.

"9/11 has started to become perceived as more of a 'New York story,' so we wanted to make sure that each location received an equal amount of attention," Machado explained.

One of the most surprising aspects of this display is that all of the fragments are out in the open, as opposed to behind glass.

"It took 150 staff members to set up the exhibit, because we wanted it to be very personal," Machado elaborated.

Some of the more noticeable fragments include a broken squeegee handle from Ground Zero. It was used by five men trapped on the 50th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center to pry open an elevator. Five minutes after their escape, the North Tower collapsed.

Another meaningful piece is the logbook of Flight 93 flight attendant Loraine Bay. The book was donated by her husband, Erich.
   
But possibly the most touching and sorrowful pieces on view is a burnt and tattered airline seatbelt, also found in the wreckage of Flight 93.

"The seatbelt, I think, really helps one realize that there was actually someone sitting in that seat, and that person is not here anymore," Machado said. "I believe that what you see in this exhibit is ordinary objects telling extraordinary stories."     

The second room of the exhibit features a documentary made by the Smithsonian about the TV coverage of 9/11. The film features exclusive commentary from ABC's Peter Jennings about the uncertainty and chaos that made it challenging to report on that historic morning. The video expertly covers the tragedy, beginning with the moment that Jules Naudet's video camera (also included in the exhibit) recorded the first plane crashing into the North tower.

A similar video, 9/11: Stories in Fragments, can be viewed online at the Smithsonian website. Additionally, the National Museum of American History is hosting a live discussion board online that lets people share their stories from 9/11, and includes video histories of some of the artifacts at the exhibit.

You can find the board on the September 11: Bearing Witness to History website.

9/11: TEN YEARS LATER

The Scholastic News Kids Press Corps marks the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania with the 9/11: Ten Years Later Special Report.

NEWS FOR KIDS, BY KIDS

Get the latest on national and international events, movies, television, music, sports, and more from the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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