The attacks of September 11, 2001 killed almost 3,000 people, shocked the world and forever seared 9/11 into memory as a date filled with tragedy, loss and heroism. Artifacts recovered from the attacks, meanwhile, became imbued with solemn significance.
By September 12, anyone who had survived the collapse of the World Trade Center and became trapped in the rubble, had been recovered. Ground Zero workers then began the heartbreaking and dangerous job of searching for remains through massive mounds of debris.
By May 2002, workers had moved more than 108,000 truckloads–1.8 million tons–of rubble to a Staten Island landfill. However, fires burned underground for months, leaving downtown Manhattan in smoke and dust with the intense smell of burning rubber, plastic and steel.
A few years later, work began at Ground Zero to build what would become the 1,776-foot-tall Freedom Tower and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. In May of 2014, the 9/11 Memorial Museum opened in New York by the World Trade Center site. The museum honors the many victims of the attacks and all those who risked their lives to rescue and save others.
Over the years, the museum has worked to document the events of 9/11 with oral histories and over 11,000 artifacts collected from Ground Zero, donated from survivors and victims’ loved ones. Here is a look at some of the items in their collection, and the heavy stories they carry.
This pair of women’s heels belonged to Fiduciary Trust employee Linda Raisch-Lopez, a survivor of the attacks on the World Trade Center. She began her evacuation from the 97th floor of the South Tower after seeing flames from the North Tower. She removed her shoes and carried them as she headed down the stairs, reaching the 67th floor when the South Tower was struck by Flight 175.
As she headed uptown to escape, she put her shoes back on, and they became bloody from her cut and blistered feet. She donated her shoes to the museum.
This American Airlines flight attendant wings lapel pin belonged to Karyn Ramsey, friend and colleague of 28-year-old Sara Elizabeth Low, who was working aboard Flight 11, which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Following the memorial service for Sara, Karyn pinned her own service wing on Sara’s father, Mike Low. Mike Low would refer to the lapel pin as “Karyn’s wings.”
This pager, recovered from Ground Zero, belonged to Andrea Lyn Haberman. Haberman, who lived in Chicago, was in New York City on September 11, 2001 for a meeting at Carr Futures offices, located on the 92nd floor of the North Tower. It was Haberman’s first time visiting New York; she was only 25 years old when she was killed in the attacks.
On the morning of September 11, 55-year-old Robert Joseph Gschaar was working on the 92nd floor of the South Tower. At the time of the attack, he called his wife to let her know about the incident and reassured her that he would safely evacuate. Robert did not make it out of the tower alive. A year after the attacks his wallet and wedding ring were recovered.
Inside his wallet was a $2 bill. Robert and his wife, Myrta, carried around $2 bills during their 11-year marriage to remind each other that they were two of a kind.
On September 11, FDNY Squad 18 responded to the attacks on the Twin Towers. Among this unit was David Halderman, who was a firefighter just like his father and brother. His helmet was found crushed on September 12, 2001 and given to his brother, Michael, who believes his death was due to the the collapse of the tower and a strike to the head. David Halderman’s body was not recovered until October 25, 2001.
This I.D. card belonged to Abraham J. Zelmanowitz, an Empire BlueCross BlueShield computer programmer. On the morning of the attacks, he was working on the 27th floor of the North Tower, along with a wheelchair-bound friend, Edward Beyea. Zelmanowitz decided to stay behind to remain by his friend’s side as the rest of the company began to evacuate. Coworkers who evacuated informed professional emergency responders that the two were awaiting assistance inside.
FDNY Captain William Francis Burke, Jr. arrived at the scene on the 27th floor as the South Tower began to collapse. Burke, with the same bravery as Zelmanowitz, sacrificed his life to help others by telling his team to evacuate to safety while he stayed behind to try and help Zelmanowitz and Beyea. The three men would only make it as far down as the 21st floor, making phone calls to loved ones before their deaths.
This gold link bracelet belonged to Yvette Nicole Moreno. Bronx native Yvette Nicole Moreno was working as a receptionist at Carr Futures on the 92nd floor of the North Tower, after recently being promoted from a temporary position. After the North Tower was hit, she called her mother to let her know she was heading home. However, on her way out of the office she was struck by debris from the South Tower, dying at the young age of 24.
This baseball cap belonged to 22-year veteran of the Port Authority Police Department, James Francis Lynch. At the time of the attacks, James was off duty and recovering from surgery, but felt the need to respond. He had previously responded to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He died at the age of 47 that day, and his body was not recovered until December 7, 2001.
This police badge belonged to John William Perry, a New York Police Department officer with the 40th Precinct and a N.Y. State Guard first lieutenant. He was another off-duty officer who responded to the attacks. He had plans to retire from the police force to pursue a career as a full-time lawyer. He was 38 years old.
On March 30, 2002 a firefighter working at Ground Zero found a bible fused to a piece of metal. The bible was open to a page with fragments of legible text reading “an eye for an eye” and “resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”