In the morning of September 11, 2001, nineteen members of the Al-Qaeda, a network of Islamist extremists, hijacked four commercial airplanes in the United States.

They planned to turn the airplanes into a massive makeshift missile, loaded with people and 11,000 gallons of fuel. In a coordinated attack, three planes struck their targets, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

All three were hit within less than an hour. The fourth plane, believed to be targeted at either The White House or the Capitol, missed at the expense of all the passengers who bravely fought the hijackers back.

Just hours later, thousands of trained professionals and volunteers rushed to the crash sites to help with rescue and recovery efforts not only at the WTC and the Pentagon but also the empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the fourth plane crash-landed.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day. Some 22,000 artifacts of the tragedy, on display at museums across the United States, are reminders of lost lives and stories of survival.


10 /10 Elevator Emergency Sign

Among all the items recovered from the World Trade Center after September 11, 2001, a terrorist attack was a rectangular-shaped elevator emergency sign.

There used to be an emergency button for the fire department at the center of the sign; now, it is just an empty hole. It was found buried among a pile of debris at the Staten Island recovery site at Fresh Kills.

The label “In Case Of Fire, Elevators Are Out Of Service” remains readable. Many of the 99 elevators in WTC were unusable during the attack. A lot of workers were trapped inside.


9 /10 In-Flight Manual United Airlines Flight 93

Flight attendants are trained professionals. They must be prepared for both expected and unexpected circumstances during a flight, which sometimes require them to provide medical treatment and act as security guards.

When onboard, every one of them must carry an in-flight manual to be used as a reference to handle any situation.

However, the challenges were beyond their ability to overcome when hijackers took control of United Airlines Flight 93.

A burned and torn page of the flight and safety manual was also recovered from the plane’s wreckage.


8 /10 Leslie Whittington's Handwritten Postcard

Before they departed from the Dulles Airport in Virginia, Leslie Whittington and their family sent a postcard to her sister Sara Guest in Watkinsville, Virginia.

In the postcard, the message says they’re off to Australia and will have a new address when they return as of September 30. Leslie even listed the new address in the postcard.

She and her family boarded the American Airlines Flight 77, hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. No passenger survived. The postcard was canceled on September 12.

The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum

7 /10 Cadaver Scent Bag

During the rescue and recovery effort at the WTC, search dogs used cadaver scent bags to help their task of finding human bodies in the ruins of the building.

Trooper Rick Scranton and a German shepherd named Theo from the New York City Police K-9 Unit carried this particular bag, a soiled white canvas pouch with a Velcro closure.

The plastic container in which the bag is stored says “DO NOT CLEAN” for apparent reason. Here the cadaver bag is pictured alongside a breathing apparatus and a K-9 hat.

The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum

6 /10 Airplane Fragment Patriotic Box

As the American Airlines Flight 77 was on high-speed descent toward the Pentagon, clipping a light pole before crashing into part of the compound, Penny Elgas, driving on the adjacent road, made a sudden stop.

She described the plane as “flying ahead of her,” and then when she arrived home, an all-plastic and fiberglass fragment was there in her car backseat.

That piece of Boeing 757’s tail must have flown inside through an open window or sunroof. She put it in a box lined with stars and striped fabric.


5 /10 Squeegee Handle

When the American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower of the WTC, a window washer Jan Demczur (originally from Poland), found himself trapped in an elevator on the 50th floor with five other men.

The only tool he had strong enough to pry open the elevator door possibly was a squeegee handle.

He used the metal handle to cut through the drywall, allowing all of them to get out from the elevator and the building before it collapsed. In a desperate moment, this seemingly simple tool saved lives.


4 /10 Melted File Cabinet

WTC was essentially an office complex, home to a wide variety of businesses. Its underground levels and plaza also had several retail stores.

Just about every single establishment in the building was reduced to ruin as it crumbled to the ground.

This melted file cabinet used to be standing in the Ben & Jerry Ice Cream Shop in the plaza.

It had been a popular treat for employees and guests alike. The artifact is one of many that showed how the attack did not discriminate against the targets.

The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum

3 /10 102nd Floor Stairwell Sign

For those who just happened to be below the point of impact in WTC that day, the stairs were their path towards safety.

Above the impact point (floors 94 – 98 in the north tower and floors 78 – 84 in the south tower), all the stairwells were blocked by debris and fire. All the elevators were out of service, too.

About 20,000 people made their way out of the building using the stairs. This metal sign, labeled “Stairwell C, Floor 102,” was recovered from the debris at the WTC site.

The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum

2 /10 Motorola Pager

As of early 2021, around 2 million pagers – as obsolete as they may seem – are still in use, primarily because of the network’s reliability.

A Motorola Pager belonging to Jonathan Eric Briley was recovered from the ruins of the north tower of the WTC. Other recovered items of his include a ring of keys and an ID card.

Briley worked as an audiovisual technician at the Windows of the World restaurant, located on the 106 and 107th floors of the tower. He liked to watch the sunrise over New York from the top of the building.


1 /10 Soldiers Magazine

The Pentagon, as the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, houses more than 16,000 military employees.

Considering its importance and the might of the U.S. military, everyone would have thought that the building was heavily fortified and defended from any possible attack.

The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, displayed its vulnerability. The attack killed 125 Pentagon employees and injured some 140 others.

A copy of “Soldiers” magazine, issue September 2001, was recovered from the damaged part of the building.

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