You know you’re about to encounter something profoundly powerful and moving when you see tissue boxes stationed throughout a museum exhibit.
Though our group only visited the Newseum in Washington D.C. for a brief time, I made sure to stop by the 9/11 Gallery, which showcases the personal stories, footage and photos of journalists who risked their lives to cover the devastating terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.
Most people can recall the exact moment 17 years ago when they first heard the news, flipping on televisions and radios to listen with abated breath as the nightmare unfolded. The gallery brings those emotional memories to light with visceral artifacts such as a charred eagle statue from the Pentagon and a piece of debris from United Flight 93, which crash-landed in rural Pennsylvania after passengers heroically attempted to overpower the hijackers.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is a battered, 31-foot broadcast antenna that once stood at the top of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, the first targeted building and the second to collapse. Lined across the adjacent wall, newspapers from all over the world announced the tragedy on September 12, 2001, with stark headlines such as “U.S. Attacked,” “Terror” and “Day of Death.”
In addition to browsing the displays, visitors can watch a 10-minute short film titled “Running Toward Danger,” which highlights the harrowing first-person accounts of journalists who ran toward Ground Zero while others fled for safety, setting aside their own shock and grief to document the event. One journalist, Thomas E. Franklin, captured the Pulitzer Prize-winning image of three firefighters raising the U.S. flag from an upended flag pole in the heart of the wreckage, reminiscent of the iconic World War II photo, “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.” The gallery also includes a touching video tribute to photojournalist Bill Biggart, who died while reporting on the attacks.