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September 7, 2004
remembers Sept. 11 attacks
To commemorate the third anniversary of the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum
will host a moving exhibit of condolence messages and artifacts sent
to the United States in the days and months following those attacks.
The exhibit, “After 9/11: Messages from the World and Images of Ground
Zero,” opened Saturday and will be on display until Jan. 2. In addition
to messages of sympathy—many from children—from more than 110 countries, “After
9/11” also features a collection of 28 photographs taken at Ground Zero
by award-winning photographer Joel Meyerowitz.
In conjunction with the exhibit opening, Priscilla Linn, curator of the state
department’s United States Diplomacy Center, and center Director Michael
Boorstein will speak at 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 9, in the Carter Library & Museum
Theater. The diplomacy center created the “After 9/11” exhibit in
collaboration with the Museum of the City of New York.
The poignancy of some of the messages included in the exhibit is striking. “Dear
Santa,” reads a note scrawled in pencil by Nicholas Barko, a 6-year-old
from Sydney, Australia. “I don’t want no toys. I just want America
to get better. I love you. XXXX Nick B.” Another depicts a French child’s
drawing of the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty holding hands, and there are
dozens more in many languages.
While the exhibit is well-timed, there has been relatively little fanfare as
Linn’s and Boorstein’s addresses are the only special programs associated
with the opening, although the light posts on Freedom Parkway have been dressed
up with banners advertising “After 9/11.”
“We wanted to be a bit low key,” said Tony Clark, spokesman for the
presidential library, which is adjacent to the Carter Center. “We thought
people would like to reflect quietly on the anniversary. And we wanted things
as simple as possible.”
The museum’s solemn presentation fits the mood of remembrance associated
with the exhibit. The many condolence items are displayed in five cases designed
to look like packing crates, symbolizing the delivery of the dozens upon dozens
of messages. A sixth case contains a paper scroll on which visitors can leave
their own messages. Many of the artifacts and notes were sent to U.S. embassies
and consulates around the world.
Other artifacts include a fireman’s helmet signed by Australian firefighters;
newspapers from Canada, Jamaica and Lebanon; postcards and drawings from children
around the world; and even a smattering of souvenirs bought in New York (like
a small replica of Statue of Liberty) by tourists and sent back in memoriam.
“It was all very spontaneous,” said Sylvia Naguib, museum curator
at the Jimmy Carter Library. “People from all around the world felt an
immediate need to express some sort of sympathy.”
In contrast to the plain wooden crates of the artifacts, the twisted metal, piles
of rubble, exhausted rescue workers and even hauntingly beautiful skies featured
in the 28 30-by-40-inch photographs ringing the 2,000 square foot exhibit hall
burst forth with a mix of bright color and stark horror.
A native of New York, Meyerowitz’s work has appeared in more than 150 exhibitions
in museums and galleries around the world. He was the only photographer granted
unimpeded access to Ground Zero after
Sept. 13, 2001.
The images selected for display with “After 9/11” are part of a special
exhibition the state department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
(ECA) asked Meyerowitz and the Museum of the City of New York to create for an
archive that would travel the world. They are a small sampling of the more than
5,000 images he shot of the aftermath.
The exhibit has been touring for more than a year. Previous stops have included
the presidential libraries of Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. After hearing
about the exhibit’s success at the Ford library—which saw attendance
double—during the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2002, Naguib
worked to host it at the Carter library.
Admission to the exhibit, which includes access to the entire presidential museum,
is $7 for adults; $5 for students with ID, senior citizens and military; and
free for children 16 and under. Those attending the Linn and Boorstein addresses
on Sept. 9 can see the exhibit free of charge.