It turns out it was familiar. Until January 1, the Museum is hosting the traveling exhibit September 11: Bearing Witness to History that was created by the Smithsonian Institution. The exhibit was familiar because Nomi and I actually saw it back in October 2002, at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
It's a powerful, worthwhile exhibit. Back in 2002, I went to a lot of the September 11 exhibits that the New-York Historical Society set up, but this Smithsonian exhibit was the one I most wanted to see. The reason is that it's an artifact exhibit. Instead of just having photographs or artwork, this exhibit has actual items from that tragic day.
The artifacts include: the Sony DSR-PD150 Digital Camcorder used by Jules Naudet as he was filming a documentary and happened to catch the only existing shot of the first plane flying into the north tower; the last photo taken by Bill Biggart, who died shortly after calling his wife and telling her that he was safe because he was "with the firemen"; a section of steel column from the WTC, twisted in the collapse; a crushed file cabinet from the Ben & Jerry's on the concourse level; a firetruck door from Squad Company One of Brooklyn; airplane fragments; the desk telephone on which Solicitor General Ted Olson's wife Barbara called him from flight 77; the squeege handle that window washer Jan Demczur used to rescue himself and others who were trapped in an elevator; FDNY Battalion Chief Joseph Pfeifer's coat and helmet; Bush's Bullhorn; and Giuliani's cell phone.
One artifact in particular moves me: a pair of shoes worn by a woman named Maria Cecilia Benavente, who worked at Aon Risk Services on the 103rd floor of the South Tower. Benavente is one of those people who has a sense of history and its importance. From what I understand, like many women, she had to remove her shoes on her way down the stairs of the Tower, in order to walk as quickly as possible. Apparently, when she got home, she stuck the shoes in a box and mailed them to the Smithsonian with a note explaining their significance, saying that she thought they might want them. They made sure to get her full story and a photograph to display along with the shoes.
What amazes me is the thought that these artifacts will most likely be taken out again in 2051 and 2101 for exhibits to commemorate the fiftieth and one hundredth anniversaries of the attacks. And I bet that the Americans of those years will look at objects like Giuliani's cell phone the same way that Nomi and I looked at the airplanes built by the Wright Brothers a hundred years ago, and remark on how quaint the technology seems.
Anyway, this is an exhibit definitely worth seeing, if you can handle the emotional impact. And if you can't get to Lexington, consider visiting the webpage Browse the Collection - September 11: Bearing Witness to History at the Smithsonian's website. You'll see pictures of all the artifacts that they had the presence of mind to collect, to help the future remember what happened on that tragic day.