City museum shows 9/11 debris

As the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaches, cities and organizations across the nation have begun to memorialize the disaster in a tangible and personal way.

In this spirit, wreckage from the World Trade Center — among media clips, firefighter gear, and personal memorabilia — may be viewed and touched at the Knights of Columbus museum in downtown New Haven until Sept. 11, 2003. The yearlong exhibition, which is still being prepared but is currently open to the public, strives to connect people to the tragedy and commemorate its victims: the firefighters, those who worked in the towers, and the families of those who lost their lives.

Two steel girders, contorted and melted and positioned in proportion to each other as the towers once were, were hauled from the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, N.Y., with the permission of the city of New York. Each beam is just over 5 feet tall. The exhibit also includes an ornamental lamppost from the World Trade Center.

A montage of media clippings, pictures, and the hat of firefighter Daniel O’Callaghan — who was promoted to captain just before he was killed in the crash of the towers — flank the museum’s walls. Inscribed on a Christmas card O’Callaghan’s daughter made for him are the words “come home soon,” expressing her persistent hope that, even after three months, her father would eventually return.

Museum Director Larry Sowinski said the wreckage connects people to “a very personal sorrow.”

“You looked down on the world when you were in those towers,” he said. “They were massive, magnificent structures.”

The exhibition is intended as a tribute to humanity at its best — the victims, the rescuers and the families — and evinces the personal, rather than financial, reaction to the attacks.

“Nothing more terrible has happened,” Sowinski said. “This is part of the total story.”

The Knights, a Catholic organization of men and their families, lost 46 of its own members and six members’ wives, and has raised almost $1.5 million as part of its “Heroes Fund” for the families of the rescuers.

Pieces of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon have traveled from Lower Manhattan and Washington to many cities across the country. These remnants have served as memorials and allowed people to relate personally to last year’s national tragedy.

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