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An inside look at the new 9/11 exhibit at the New York City Fire Museum

The museum is honoring the anniversary of Sept. 11 with a new exhibit, “Recovery and Reflection, Celebrating the 9/11 Tribute”

By Jennifer Brown

This September, the New York City Fire Museum is presenting a temporary exhibit, “Recovery and Reflection, Celebrating the 9/11 Tribute Museum,” as part of its commemoration activities surrounding the 22nd anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The new exhibition features 15 panels that were previously on display at the 9/11 Tribute Museum, founded by the September 11th Families’ Association in Lower Manhattan adjacent to the World Trade Center site in 2006 and closed in August 2022.

The victims’ names are spread over four panels. As part of the exhibit, visitors also can view a slideshow of photos illustrating the heroic acts of that day and the aftermath, photos of tributes that sprung up around firehouses after 9/11, as well as a short video of retired firefighter Bill Spade, who served with the FDNY from January 1985 to March 2003. Spade is the only Firefighter from Rescue 5 who made it home that day.

Additional panels display photos with quotes from key FDNY members, such as former New York City Fire Commissioners Daniel Nigro and Sal Cassano, as well as retired firefighter Lee Ielpi, Board President of the September 11th Families Association and cofounders of the 9/11 Tribute Museum. Ielpi’s son Jonathan, a firefighter, was killed in the attacks.

Honoring the 9/11 Tribute Museum

The 9/11 Tribute Museum’s roots began with FDNY families, making the connection between the two institutions strong. It is our honor to work with and display items from the 9/11 Tribute Museum to further our efforts to honor the 22nd anniversary of the attacks. It was also important to us to pay tribute to the 9/11 Tribute Museum itself, which welcomed visitors from around the world for over 16 years. The Museum educated them about the horror of that day, the resilience of New Yorkers in the aftermath, and the worldwide response to the attacks, both through exhibitions and also first-person accounts provided by the many volunteer docents who were directly impacted on and after 9/11.

“Honoring the legacy of the 9/11 Tribute Museum honors the 9/11 community who rose up to be an inspiration in recovery and educate millions of people,” Ielpi said. “Family members, survivors, first responders, recovery workers and residents of Lower Manhattan showed the true spirit of strength by sharing their stories at the 9/11 Tribute Museum.”

Jennifer Adams-Webb, CEO of the Association and 9/11 Tribute Museum, reflected by saying, “The 9/11 Tribute Museum welcomed people from over 130 countries to hear the authentic personal stories from our diverse community. We are thankful to the NYC Fire Museum for honoring the 9/11 Tribute Museum and the inspiring stories of recovery from the 9/11 community.”

The exhibition is part of the Museum’s ongoing efforts to remember and honor the heroes of September 11 and specifically the 343 members of the FDNY who were killed that day. The Museum houses a permanent 9/11 memorial on the first floor, which includes the photos of the 343 members, and was the first of its kind to be created. Each year, to mark the September 11 anniversary, the Museum hosts a wreath-laying ceremony in conjunction with FDNY to honor and commemorate the lives lost and the impact on the department.

The Museum is committed to never forgetting the bravery and sacrifice of the FDNY that day and in the months and years after, and actively honoring the department, not only on the anniversary date but throughout the year. It is so important for us to provide a special memorial space for visitors to the Museum, who come from near and far, to learn more about the events of that tragic day, the tremendous loss of life that the FDNY suffered, and the heroic recovery efforts afterwards.

About the author

Jennifer Brown is executive director of the New York City Fire Museum.