9/11 20 years later: Local exhibits, memorials ‘make you think’

Exhibit shot of the World Trade Center Gallery. Photo provided by the New York State Museum.
Exhibit shot of the World Trade Center Gallery. Photo provided by the New York State Museum.

8:26 a.m.

That inscription on Amsterdam’s Sept. 11 memorial reminds viewers of the minute that American Airlines Flight 11 turned in the sky over the city on the Mohawk River before heading south toward the World Trade Center, striking the north tower 20 minutes later.

“I think it’s very evocative. The point is, it’s there to make you think,” said Amsterdam historian Robert von Hasseln, who helped design the memorial.

Located in Riverlink Park, the memorial features a concrete and steel column from the parking level of the north tower, which remained intact after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center as well as the 2001 attack.

“The concept here is not only the idea of representing something historic and important in that classical style but this pillar survived both bombs,” von Hasseln said. “So it’s a message that says we’re resilient, we’re strong. We survived. And it allows people to look at it and bring their own messages.”

Completed in 2017, the memorial also features a ceremonial bell along with several flags, including a flag of remembrance, featuring the names of 9/11 victims. There’s also a lamp that’s lit each night.

Standing behind the “8:26” inscription, visitors can place themselves roughly on the flight path of Flight 11 by lining up the column and the lamp post.

Over the years, visitors have left letters and photos in memory of loved ones they lost that day.

More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section 

Rob Spagnola, Amsterdam’s director of tourism, marketing and recreation, and one of the organizers of the memorial, remembers visitors from Long Island who left flowers and a picture at the memorial as a tribute to a friend who died in the attacks.

It’s one of several Sept. 11 memorials/exhibitions installed in the Capital Region in the years since the attack.

STATE MUSEUM EXHIBIT

Perhaps the area’s most extensive exhibit is at the New York State Museum, which has dedicated a gallery to year-round Sept. 11 exhibitions.

The first portion of the gallery was installed on the first anniversary of the attacks, though it expanded in size the following year. It features a comprehensive look at the rescue and recovery efforts through artifacts found in the rubble of the towers, video interviews with first responders and powerful images of firefighters and others seeking refuge in St. Paul’s Church near the World Trade Center.

In honor of the 20th anniversary, senior historian and curator Aaron Noble said the exhibit will also feature a series of photographs of Trade Center commuters, taken by Kristen Artz. The photographer had been hired by a publication to capture WTC commuters. The images were published a day or so before the attack.

“The photographs themselves, if 9/11 hadn’t occurred, would just be a time capsule of everyday life. But looking at it through the lens of Sept. 11, they just take on so much more meaning,” Noble said.

Artz donated the 100-plus photographs she took on that assignment to the museum, and roughly 30 will be on display.

Beyond those photos, curators will bolster the exhibition’s section on the 1993 bombing of the WTC and add text about the crippling health impacts of 9/11 on first responders.

“We will be adding information to the gallery this year to acknowledge the fact that the repercussions of Sept. 11 are continuing today with the pervasive health issues that residents and responders continue to suffer with. The fact that we continue to lose people because of the toxic dust and chemicals that were inhaled in the aftermath of the attacks,” Noble said.

While Noble traditionally hosts a tour of the World Trade Center Gallery on Sept. 11, he won’t be able to on the 20th anniversary because of the pandemic. There is a video tour available at http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/ and the museum will be open that day.

ART PIECE AND MEMORIAL

Elsewhere in the region, at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Fulton County, sits one of the largest artifacts from the north tower to have traveled upstate.

Standing at roughly 33 feet tall, it was once part of the communications mast on the north tower.

“It was sort of an iconic part of the tower,” said Joel Chapin, professor at FMCC and director of the Perrella Art Gallery.

Working with Louis Pabon, a student who was involved in the recovery efforts after 9/11, Chapin helped the college to secure the artifact and install it in 2016. It functions as both a memorial and an art piece. It was installed so that on 9/11, during the minutes when each tower fell, the shadow it casts touches two white pillars representing the towers.

In remembrance of the 20th anniversary, at 8 a.m. on Sept. 11 members of the Schenectady Pipe Band will perform at the memorial and college President Greg Truckenmiller, Assembly members Angelo Santabarbara and Robert Smullen, Sheriff Richard Giardino from the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, and Sheriff Jeff Smith from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office will offer remarks.

In the Perrella Gallery, there will be a display of photographs, including more than a dozen by Pabon, taken during his time working at the site of the WTC. Pabon, who has since graduated and moved to Florida, used a simple point-and-shoot camera to capture images of the wreckage. Most have a cloudy quality, conjuring the dust and debris that seemed to be perpetually suspended in the air following the collapse of the towers. The display will be up through Sept. 17. For information, visit fmcc.edu.

In Saratoga Springs, High Rock Park features a 9/11 memorial sculpture made from steel artifacts from the World Trade Center. Named “Tempered by Memory,” it was created by regional artists John Van Alstine and Noah Savett, and installed in 2012. Featured at the site of a rock escarpment, it’s within walking distance of Congress Park and Broadway.

ON THE MOHAWK

In Glenville, The Waters Edge Lighthouse hosts a memorial ceremony honoring the victims lost. This year’s ceremony will be held at 1 p.m.

A memorial at the site was installed in 2007 and includes two metal beams recovered from ground zero, placed adjacent to the restaurant. The Popolizio family, which owns the restaurant, has traditionally commemorated the anniversary of 9/11 with a ceremony that has brought in 300 or so people.

“We do it because we should never forget the people who were sacrificed on 9/11, but also for the many events that happened after that,” Waters Edge owner Pat Popolizio said in an interview a few years ago. “We lost thousands of soldiers in the war that followed 9/11, so to me it’s extremely important that we never forget and that we remember everyone, including all the responders, who sacrificed their lives.”

More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section 

Categories: 9/11 20 Years Later, Life and Arts

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