The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mundane objects show best, worst of human nature

Washington, Sept. 10 (Reuters): An ordinary pair of women’s black slip-on shoes. Quarters, dimes and pennies fused in a battered tin. A dust-covered but remarkably intact briefcase. A warped pocket calculator. Melted identity tags.

Small, mundane objects, but also poignant reminders of the enormity of September 11, 2001, on display at the Smithsonian Museum in an exhibit First Lady Laura Bush called “an account of the worst and the best of human nature.”

“September 11: Bearing Witness to History” opened at the National Museum of American History today, almost precisely 24 hours before the anniversary of the moment the first hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.

“This exhibit is a growing repository of our collective memories,” Bush told survivors, victims’ families, rescue workers and emergency personnel. “It tells the story of a nation that gathered strength, displayed unbridled patriotism and showed the world the meaning of heroism and hope.”

The collection of objects, sights, sounds and stories from September 11 was “history in the making,” Secretary of state Colin Powell said.

“The image of that day of terror still plays through our minds with the clarity of a waking nightmare, and it is far too early to put the events of September 11 into full perspective.”

Joined by Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Joseph Pfeifer, the first New York City Fire Department battalion chief to arrive at Ground Zero, Powell and Bush received the Pentagon Garrison flag unfurled from the roof of the defence department by firefighters and soldiers on September 12 when President George W. Bush visited the site.

The huge flag remained draped over the Pentagon’s West Wall for a month when it was lowered and folded with full military honours.

The standard will be raised at the Pentagon again tomorrow.

The Smithsonian exhibit has personal significance for Pfeifer who lost his firefighting brother Kevin at the World Trade Center. The battalion chief's grime-encrusted coat, boots and helmet are on display.

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