Cell phones and pagers, airplane engines, a door from a police squad car, a mother's wallet and credit cards. Those items survived when terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York City during the September 11 attacks.
The Newseum in Washington, D.C., is expanding its FBI exhibit with a new display of artifacts from 9/11 and other terrorist plots that have never been on display to the public before.
"War on Terror: The FBI's New Focus" will open Friday in plenty of time for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Newseum selected 60 pieces of evidence the FBI had in storage for use in terror trials, including huge pieces of an airplane that survived ramming into the World Trade Center towers.
"I think the most powerful pieces here are the most personal," said Cathy Trost, director of exhibit development at the Newseum. "The things that people put in their pockets that morning not knowing that this was going to be a day that changed their lives forever."
Perhaps the most heart-wrenching items on display belonged to Ruth McCourt of New London, Connecticut. McCourt was taking her 4-year-old daughter, Juliana, to visit Disneyland. They were aboard United Flight 175, which was the second plane to hit the World Trade Center. McCourt's wallet was found in the debris, battered but still intact. It's on display along with three credit cards. A picture of McCourt and Juliana at the beach is also shown.
"A lot of family members want to make sure there are public displays because they don't want people to forget what they lost that day," said Susan Bennett, a Newseum senior vice president.
A sampling of the many cell phones and pagers are part of the exhibit. "It's so sad because the families, the colleagues of the people who were in the World Trade Center didn't give up," Bennett said. "They kept trying to call, and call, and call again with just a glimmer of hope that somehow perhaps the people were still buried underneath the rubble or had perhaps been taken to a hospital. It was very emotional for the rescue workers because they could hear the cell phones ringing."
Pictures of the 19 hijackers are also on display along with some of their passports. A seating plan for one of the flights shows where leader Mohamed Atta and his co-conspirators were sitting, and a letter all the hijackers left behind is included. The five-page martyrdom message was written in Arabic. A translation of the first page is shown and begins with the chilling words: "The Last Night: 1) Embrace the will to die and renew allegiance."