Friday, September 02, 2011

Evidence of History

by contributor Brendan Kownacki

The upcoming 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks have made many people across the country and the world stop and pause to reflect on just what that moment meant and where we are today. The FBI was no different in this regard and they have taken the time to look at their own change and growth since the infamous day and just how institutionally their role has changed in society because of new ever-present terrorist threat against the US.

Washington D.C.’s popular Newseum is opening a new exhibit this week to reflect on the tragic events and present never before seen artifacts surrounding the attacks and the FBI’s investigations into the terrorist suspects.

Sandwiched into the FBI wing of the museum, the terrorism retrospective sits among artifacts like the Unabomber’s cabin, the electric chair from the Lindbergh kidnapping trial and assorted other artifacts from famous news-breaking crimes.

The exhibition lends a haunting allure to the room as you see such items as engine parts from the planes that hit the Twin Towers as well  human artifacts recovered from the rubble such as credit cards, and cells phones and pagers that are said to have kept ringing for days after the towers came crashing down. “It’s the story of the FBI’s investigation of the terrorist attacks, the largest criminal investigation in their history” said Cathy Trost, Director of Exhibit Development for the Newseum.  The emotion of the exhibit is palpable, but there are is also power exuded in all that the FBI learned and took away from these pieces of paper and metal and used that information to continue to safeguard the US homeland.

Dan McCarren, who is the FBI Liaison to the Newseum shared that this exhibit really highlights how the FBI has moved to “role of prevention” in a post 9/11 world - investigating and responding are no longer enough. McCarren discussed how increased communications among law enforcement has been a critical step in the success of stopping new attacks and shared that his role with the Newseum is a great opportunity to share these lessons that the bureau has learned. He commented that to the FBI, the items being displayed were “evidence” but now they have become “artifacts”—pieces of history, and the stories we lived through to get to where we are today.

The exhibition will open to the public on September 2nd, with thousands expected to visit in the coming weeks as we mark the anniversary of this tragedy.