September 11: Found artifacts at the 9/11 Museum

Above, a Fire Helmet belonging to Chief Joseph Pfeifer. This object is now part of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. More photos, and stories about those objects, below (source: REUTERS). A related news item about the museum is here.

Joseph Pfiefer, the battalion chief of Engine 7, Ladder 1, was on a routine call in downtown Manhattan when he heard the roar of American Airlines Flight 11 passing overhead on course for the North Tower of the World Trade Center. His unit was one of the first to arrive at the scene, and he set up a command center in the North Tower's lobby. That day, he was being followed by two French filmmaker brothers, Jules and Gedeon Naudet, and their footage from the scene shows Pfiefer's brother Kevin, also a firefighter in a different unit, preparing to head upstairs for the unfolding rescue mission. When the South Tower collapsed, Pfiefer radioed evacuation orders to his officers in the North Tower. Pfiefer, along with the rest of Ladder 1, survived that day. His brother did not.

The museum, which occupies seven stories below the ground of the World Trade Center site--is still being built at the site of the fallen towers. It is due only to open in 2012, on the 11th anniversary of the attacks.

Below, more images of personal belongings that will become part of the museum's collection.

Above, blood-stained shoes worn by Linda Lopez as she evacuated from the 97th Floor of Tower 2 on September 11, 2001. She was at work at the Fiduciary Trust Company on the South Tower's 97th floor when the first plane crashed into North Tower, sending a fireball past their window and radiating a heat that she said felt like being sunburned. There was quickly a sense of confusion: Was it a bomb? Were the rumors that it was a plane crash true? Should people in the South Tower ignore the advice coming over the public address system to stay put and evacuate instead? Lopez felt she had to get out. She had reached only as far as the 61st when she was thrown against a wall as the second plane crashed into the floors above her. Taking off her shoes, she continued to head down the stairs, passing firefighters heading in the opposite direction. She ran barefoot out of the building, across broken glass and other debris. "Lady, your feet are bleeding," someone said to her as she paused a few blocks away in relative safety. She put her shoes back on, and began learning the details of what it was she had just escaped from.

Red wallet belonging to victim Gennie Gambale, recovered from the rooftop of the Marriott Hotel at the World Trade Center. She was a vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald and working on the 103rd floor of the North Tower when the first plane crashed into the lower floors, trapping those above. Her family put up thousands of posters around town in the hopes that she might be found alive, but it was in vain; she was 27 when she was killed. A police officer, who happened to be the mother of one of Gambale's friends, found Gambale's wallet on the roof of the nearby Marriott hotel and immediately recognized the name on the damaged cards inside, and ensured it was quickly handed over to the family.

A "Little Red" doll discovered by Brian Van Flandern on September 12, 2001. He awoke in Queens on the morning of 9/11 to the news of a plane hitting the North Tower, and was determined to volunteer despite his emergency medical technician license having recently expired. After repeated failed attempts to enroll at several impromptu volunteer coordination that had sprung up around the city that day, he decided to head to the World Trade Center site and managed to get past a checkpoint to join other volunteers on what became known as "the pile". He spent 24 hours helping search for trapped and wounded survivors. Morale quickly flagged: he recalls only one successful rescue, in which a man was freed from a piece of steel piercing his ankle. Before leaving the site, he found a rag-doll in the rubble. At first, it seemed to be evidence of a child caught up in the attacks. He later learned it was one of several mascot dolls that sat together on the shelf in the offices of the Chances for Children charity on the 101st floor of the North Tower, other examples of which were found scattered far and wide across Lower Manhattan.

A recovered FDNY Squad 252 helmet belonging to deceased FDNY member Kevin M. Prior is seen in this photograph before becoming a part of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York August 22, 2011. Kevin Prior, a firefighter with Brooklyn's Squad 252, can be seen in video footage of the North Tower lobby recorded after the first plane hit getting ready to go upstairs. Responding to a mayday call sent out by fellow firefighters encountering breathing problems, he and five other members of the squad are thought to have been on a floor in the 20s when the tower collapsed. Prior's body was found three weeks after the attacks and buried on Long Island, but his mother was troubled that his helmet had not been returned to the family, and said as much in a television interview. An employee at the city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner happened to catch the broadcast, recognized Prior's squad and badge numbers, and hand-delivered the badly damaged helmet to his grateful family.

A Port Authority Police Department uniform hat, badge number 899, and Port Authority Pipe Band hat belonging to victim Liam Callahan. He was a Port Authority police officer who had been commended for his "heroic actions" after responding to the 1993 World Trade Center bomb attack, and was a first responder on the morning of 9/11. Even after the towers collapsed, Joan, his wife, continued to hope he might somehow turn up in time for the celebration of their 20th wedding anniversary the next day. He was killed at the age of 44. His family donated his Port Authority police uniform hat and the uniform he would wear as a drum sergeant in the force's Emerald Society Pipes and Drums band.

An NYPD Emergency Service Unit hardhat and folding shovel used on September 11, 2001 and during the clean-up period at ground zero by Police Officer Kenny Winkler of NYPD ESU 1, is seen in this photograph. He was coming off-duty from a night shift as an officer with the New York Police Department's Emergency Service Unit on the morning of the attacks. He nonetheless joined his colleagues on their vehicle and they raced towards the World Trade Center, and stayed in the vehicle outside to coordinate communications between different parts of the force. After the South Tower collapsed, he ordered everyone still inside the North Tower to leave. He had to abandon the vehicle after the North Tower collapsed, and set up a new command center nearby and continued to try and coordinate communications. Later, he would work on the pile during the rescue operation, wearing his NYPD hardhat and carrying his hand shovel, and returned periodically to the site during the following nine-month clean-up operation.

An ironworker construction helmet belonging to Larry Keating, an ironworker foreman who helped oversee the removal of wreckage from the World Trade Center site during the nine-month clean-up operation following the attack. He was chosen by the ironworkers union, Local 40, to represent his colleagues at the ceremonial removing of what became known as Last Column - an upright piece of of the towers that had become covered in mementos from the clean-up workers and from which flew an American flag. He wore his hardhat throughout the clean-up, and continued to wear it proudly for site visits until his death in 2011 from a heart attack.


    1. The vast majority of FD helmets are high-impact, heat-resistant plastic, and have been for several decades. Quite often, as a tip to tradition, the shield on the front of the helmet will be made of leather.

      You will always find adherents to tradition who insist on full-leather helmets, though. Apparently, in 2001, that was true in the FDNY.

  1. Swiped from Peter Dougherty:

    I have not forgotten. But I will not spend today remembering. Live in joy, and thereby confound those who wish you ill.

    Swiped from Ping Huang:

    we remember and act upon the important lessons from 9/11 — we are all
    one country (though we may have many disagreements); the ends do not
    justify the means (although terrorists think their ends justify their
    means, we should not justify the violations of fundamental
    Constitutional freedoms for “safety”); and we should celebrate both the
    acts of heroism writ large in history on that day and the acts of
    everyday heroism.

  2. Lets Cancel It!By Tom Engelhardt

    Let’s bag it.

    I’m talking about the tenth anniversary ceremonies for 9/11, and
    everything that goes with them: the solemn reading of the names of the
    dead, the tolling of bells, the honoring of first responders, the gathering of presidents, the dedication of the new memorial, the moments of silence.  The works.

    Let’s just can it all.  Shut down Ground Zero.  Lock out the tourists.  Close “Reflecting Absence,” the memorial built in the “footprints” of the former towers with its grove of trees, giant pools, and multiple waterfalls
    before it can be unveiled this Sunday.  Discontinue work on the
    underground National September 11 Museum due to open in 2012.  Tear down
    the Freedom Tower (redubbed 1 World Trade Center after our “freedom”
    wars went awry), 102 stories of “the most expensive skyscraper ever
    constructed in the United States.” (Estimated price tag:
    $3.3 billion.)  Eliminate that still-being-constructed, hubris-filled
    1,776 feet of building, planned in the heyday of George W. Bush and
    soaring into the Manhattan sky like a nyaah-nyaah invitation to future
    terrorists.  Dismantle the other three office towers being built there as part of an $11 billion
    government-sponsored construction program.  Let’s get rid of it all.
      If we had wanted a memorial to 9/11, it would have been more
    appropriate to leave one of the giant shards of broken tower there

    1. One of the things that I remember from 10 years ago was how quiet it was for the days before flights resumed. Ever since I’ve thought the best memorial would be making September 11 a no-fly day every year.

      1. Lets not.  I don’t need my travel plans ruined celebrating the day that marks the beginning of a  cowardly surrender of civil liberties.  

        If you want to do something to remember 9/11, vote for politicians who are not going to surrender your liberties in the name of 9/11.  Better and braver men and women stormed beach heads during World War II, endured police beatings during the Civil Rights Movement, or stood fast against bayonet charges during the Civil War.  Is it so much to ask that our small and trivial part in this legacy of defending and growing liberty be that we just don’t act like god damn cowards over a one in a hundred thousand chance of being killed by a terrorist and surrender the liberties better people bled to hand to us?

        I personally hate 9/11 because it reminds me of how cowardly this generation was when it came to defending their civil liberties.  No one asked us to storm a beachhead or put our lives on the line.  The only thing we had to do was not surrender what better men and women bled to give us, and we failed.  

        On 9/11, I feel nothing but shame for how our cowardice has led to our dishonoring of the people who made real sacrifices to grow and defend our liberties.

        1. I think you’re taking a much rosier view of those great old generations than what you should.  Those internment camps where we herded Japanese Americans during WW II because they were probably all in on Pearl Harbor?  Not our finest moment in terms of civil liberties.  There’s no point in our history–or probably any country’s history–where dishonorable behavior didn’t happen after a tragedy.

          I don’t know who you think is “celebrating” 9/11 on any level–but people can certainly hate 9/11 for backsteps in civil liberties without crapping all over people who want to remember the dead.

          1. if we did intern……………………………………they wouldn’t have received piolet licences…..would they…………………they would have been……………..interned????

        2. I agree with many of Rindan’s comments. Allow me to amend my proposal to suggesting a single annual no-fly day for no reason at all except to allow everyone to, as awjt wrote, “experience what the skies were like a hundred years ago when there were no airplanes and everything was quiet.” It’s important enough all on its own to be worth the inconvenience, but commerce and convenience demand otherwise.

      2. I have been working outside all day. I have not heard one single airplane or helicopter today!   Normally, in New England, on a nice weekend day like this, the skies are abuzz with activity.  I think, in a quiet way, many pilots might be holding back today.  I distinctly remember that entire, quiet-sky, no-fly week after 9/11.  I remember thinking: never again will I experience what the skies were like a hundred years ago when there were no airplanes and everything was quiet.  Today has been quiet like that again, ironically.

    2. It’s true… a lot of this 9/11 remembrance stuff is over-the-top.  Probably like how all the early Christians felt about the pagan holidays.  And then how the Pagans felt later on, after the Christians took over.  It’s all relative.

      On 9/11 I found out my first wife was having our twins, our first kids.  It was a bittersweet day.   I remember that day like it was yesterday.  I was stunned at the changes in my own life and the abrupt changes in so many other people’s lives.  Friends of colleagues were killed in the towers and on the planes.  And new life was coming down the road right to me.  Everyone around me was busy watching the replays over and over on TV, sobbing, clutching each other on couches, involved in their drama. I watched a little of it that morning, then tuned it all out. I put on some music, thinking about what lay ahead of me.  I was going to be a DAD!  

      The reality, MY reality, is that the stuff closest to my heart wins out every time. Should it be any other way?  I will always remember 9/11 as the first time I saw my kids’ pictures on the ultrasound printout.  For all the other people who have a different memory of 9/11, I’m sorry you lost someone that day.  Let’s just agree not to shit on each other’s point of view.

  3. Nothing like a heaping dose of dramatic morbidity to keep the sheep rooted in their fear and self-pity.
    Use any means available to perpetuate the madness…

    1. Or, alternatively, a shining tribute to bravery and the human spirit. Most of this is from first responders who pushed fear and panic down and trampled all over the terror these terrorists were trying to with their very lives instill.

      Remembrance does not equal fear. Should we forget? Go on as though nothing happened? It did, and now as a nation we are tested. Today should be a reminder of how strong we can be when we unite, when we refuse to cower to small minds with bombs and hate. The madness has to stop, I fully agree, and what better way  to rally than to remember the brave souls who went through this, who ran into the fray?


    “…Next let us consider the National September 11 Memorial and Museum
    itself, which will cost at least $700 million to build, and will have a
    $60 million annual operating budget. The Oklahoma City Bombing memorial
    cost $29.1 million to build. The World War II Memorial cost $175

    And despite the name, it’s not really a “national” monument, as in
    something owned by the public. It’s actually a private, not-for-profit

  5. Wow, how many of the people above who are so sure of how OTHER people should spend today, remembering or not, lost someone that day? Everybody deals in their own way. 

    And leather helmets can be made just as impact resistant as the plastic ones (the suspension system underneath does most of the work), and they don’t melt as soon as plastic will. But they are terribly heavy when compared to the plastic ones. 

  6. I appreciated this post because it demonstrates that we can grieve without losing sight of who we are, we can remember what was lost without becoming consumed with the same hatred that spurred on  those who committed the acts and those who have used the events to further a preexisting agenda. While I am angry over much of what has been done in the past ten years as a response to 9/11 and feel a great deal of shame for what we Americans have collectively allowed to be done in order to “keep us safe,” I would be lying if I denied the actual events of that day tore me apart. I still wish with all my heart that the attacks on September 11, 2001 had never happened.

  7. Brit living in Canada here. In a checkout queue today I heard one Canadian say to another, “what’s the difference between 9/11 and a cow? You stop milking a cow after 10 years!”. Pretty much everyone who heard it smiled. I think the US may be getting more and more out of step with the rest of the world.

    1. Jesus Christ, I’m Canadian and I’d be fucking embarrassed to share that story. I don’t disagree that there are those who exploit the tragedy for their own means, but that joke is crass and disrespectful towards the ones who suffered real losses.

  8. reply to nemOfazer.  We purposely remember 9/11; 12/7, Holocust, etc. so that people do not forget the cruelty of men against men.  Think of that should any country including yours experience a horrific act.

    1. Marge, chill out. I have never forgotten the Holocaust nor 9/11 but a lot of people are getting sick of the media saturation surrounding the event.  There is a difference between remembering/respecting and the OCD behavior of some media outlets and some people.

      Also, Yom HaShoah was created in the non-media saturated world of the 1940s. The purpose of creating a religious holiday like that in the pre 24/7 news cycle world we live in is to make sure people remember.

      Now in the 21st century, what exactly are the chances of folks actually ever forgetting 9/11?  You cannot turn on a TV or read a newspaper without reading about it. Heck, here in NYC you cannot walk a few blocks without being reminded of the day in some way.

      In this spirit of this post I think these tiny memorials to the lives lost are 100% appropriate and don’t deserve any criticism.  See that wallet?  That was connected to a person. That person is gone.  This is a much better way of understanding the tragedy than constant flag waving and jingoism.

    2. To provide a counter point, I had to google 12/7, and the first result that I saw was the Spitak Earthquake in 1988 which killed 25,000 people, which I thought made sense. And then I saw the other results. 

  9. I’m a Canadian and I am not embarrassed. I believe that the whole world has been led down the garden path in so many ways. How many folks out there actually ask themselves why it happened in the first place????? Some hints for the myopic and challenged, oil, money, greed.
    Shit don’t happen in a vacuum….

    1. It “happened in the first place” because a rich scion of Saudi wealth decided to take his trustafarian lifestyle to an extreme and decided murdering innocents would achieve his goal of what exactly?  If the U.S. and other western nation decided to magically disappear from the Middle East, would someone like this say “Phew! Now we can relax.” They are just a bunch of paranoid idiots and “blaming the victim” solves nothing.

      The U.S. didn’t cause this to happen and did not deserve this. Tons of other nations have issues with the U.S. and don’t do this. So leave this nonsense out of here. Nobody who died that day deserved to die except for the attackers themselves.

  10. I remember 9/11/73 when the US under the auspices of the CIA toppled the democratically elected socialist Salvadore Allende in Chile.  Probably more than 3000 ultimately “disappeared”.

  11. 9/11 did not change the world (except for those directly affected by it).

    It changed our perceptions of the world. That change in perceptions has been milked for all it’s worth as an excuse to make challenging government actions justified on this basis near-treasonous.

    Remember the bravery of those who tried to rescue as many as possible on that day. But also remember the cowardice shown by our leaders.

  12. I know the day affected the entire country — I’m not an idiot.  But it’s hard to comprehend what it did to NY unless you lived here — and by here I mean the city and its suburbs.  I watched the towers collapse from my office some 20+ miles away.  People from my high school, college, hometown, and current town all died that day.   If you didn’t lose a loved one, you knew someone who did.  I don’t want to belabor the point, but what this event was to the nation it was 1000x that to NY.   So whenever the nation is ready to move on, NY won’t be just yet.

    [ Insert your comment on civil liberties lost here.]

    All that said, I’m sure the 11th anniversary “celebrations” will be smaller than those of today and any prior anniversary.  That’ll please many of the people who have already commented.

    1. You do realize what is significant about this anniversary is that the 9/11 memorials and museum are now basically built? The fact there has truly not been a place for anyone to grieve or truly come in touch with the horrors of that day are the main reason most folks really have not gotten over it. I blame bureaucracy and incompetence on the part of the developers of the site. NYC was in the midst of a real estate boom in the past 10 years, but the WTC site could not have a proper “headstone” for lack of a better term?  Nonsense.

      I’m happy there is finally some closure.  Osama Bin Laden is dead, this memorial and museum is built. And a new chapter can open up. But I truly doubt anyone will forget any of this.  I knew what the U.S.S. Arizona memorial was/is in Hawaii despite being born in the late 1960s. Some things outlast marketing or media, and the events of 9/11 are definitely one of those things that we don’t need to be reminded about but will never forget.

      1. re: ” I knew what the U.S.S. Arizona memorial was”

        Sadly – the newer generation probably has no idea WTF that is. “Remember the Maine!” anyone?

        I suppose here is where one mentions that ones lack of historical knowledge will lead one down a supposed path to repeat it.

        1. The Maine is a particularly interesting and apt comparison, because there are still unsettled questions over whether the explosions that sunk her were (i) an accidental spontaneous combustion of bunker coal, (ii) an attack by Spain (iii) a sabotage by the U.S. itself to throw the country into war. What you remember depends on who you believe, and what your personal knowledge and prejudices lead you to.

  13. Where were you when they built the Ladder to Heaven?

    Did it make you feel like crying?

    Or did you think it was kinda gay?

    Well I for one believe in the Ladder to Heaven

    Ooh yeah yeah yeah, 9-11

    I said 9-11 9-11 9-11 9, 9-11

    Where were you

    When they ran out of stuff to build the Ladder to Heaven?

    Where were you

    When they saved that Ladder to Heaven?

    Where were you

    When they decided Heaven was a more intangible idea

    And couldn’t, you couldn’t really…get there?

  14. Can I just say that the media really does use every single crisis, disaster, accident, crime, breakout, abuse, death, war, and violent episode as a powerful narcotic to seduce, scare, torture, belittle, anesthetize, enrage and force its viewers into a state of powerless submission? 

    Without thought for the long lasting effects on our psychology, our societal mores or emotional distress and real world reactions. We absorb as much misinformation and emotional sabotage as they choose to spew at us and then wander back into reality  depressed, hopeless and numb..

    Of course after years and years of senseless violence labeled “entertainment” we cannot fully understand the pain of those who personally experienced the losses of 9-11, of course we were so dismayed by 9-11 when it happened that we allowed our rights to be stolen, in the name of “safety”…of course we are prejudiced against those who the media claim are at fault and are tired of the shameless bloody extravaganza of the show.

    We are disgusted and confused and sad and frustrated. Therein lies a hope that we will one day wake up and begin seeing things as they really are. Don’t let the conversation end in frustration, let it grow in volume until the truth overpowers the inhumanity of those that enslave us.

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