by Claire Stewart | Photos courtesy of University of West Florida
2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon in 2001. To mark this space in time and reflect on the seminal events that shaped our nation for years to come, the University of West Florida (UWF) Historic Trust opened 9/11 Remembered on the second floor of the Pensacola Museum of History in downtown Pensacola.
The exhibit contains items from first responders used at Ground Zero, as well as two artifacts recovered from the wreckage site, on loan from the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. A section of i-beam from the World Trade Center towers is also on display courtesy of the History Museum of Mobile. When entering the space, visitors can view footage and interviews from that tragic day projected on a wall of the exhibit. The footage includes an interview with Naval Air Station Pensacola personnel who were involved in the recovery efforts. The 9/11 Remembered exhibit also includes an interactive space for visitors to share their own personal stories.
“We really wanted people to have an area to reflect on the events of that day and how things have changed since then,” Curator of Exhibits at the UWF Historic Trust, Jessie Cragg said. “We created a place for people to fill out a card with their 9/11 story. When the exhibit comes down, we’ll preserve these stories in an archive for future display or research opportunities.”
Cards are filled with memories of where people were when they first heard the news or their thoughts about how the world has shifted since that day. Reading through the cards, visitors will see a range of experiences, ages and feelings evoked in the 9/11 stories: “I was stationed in Korea and it was night time when I saw the event on TV. My first thought was that I had fallen asleep and woken up during a movie. My whole world crumbled.”
“I was 16, sitting in my science class. We sat in stunned silence watching everything unfold. I consoled my friend whose family member worked in one of the towers. I couldn’t really absorb what was happening.”
Once cards are filled out, they are installed in the gallery as part of two floating columns, reminiscent of the Twin Towers. The exhibit can be a somber one for most visitors to take in. The UWF Historic Trust wanted the exhibit to be a space of reflection, especially for first responders who identify closely with the events of September 11, 2001.
“First responders are the heroes of the 9/11 story and they play such a large role in the Northwest Florida community,” Visitor Experience Manager at the UWF Historic Trust, Wendi Davis said. “We thought that offering free admission to the 9/11 exhibit for the individuals who save lives day in and day out is the very least we can do.”
The Pensacola Museum of History will also be participating in the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s Tribute in Light on September 11, 2021, by lighting the exterior of the building blue.
The 9/11 Remembered exhibit will be on display through January 2022 on the second floor of the Pensacola Museum of History. To purchase tickets or learn more, visit historicpensacola.org.