After my service learning last Tuesday morning at Charlie’s Place, I decided to head out on my own to check out the 9/11 exhibit that is at the Smithsonian Museum of American History this week. I decided I needed to break down and brave the bus system on my own. I’m very comfortable using the metro, but the bus is another story for me.
I caught a bus right outside my apartment after checking the schedule online four times and writing down the name of my stop on a post-it note to keep in my purse. I got to the museum just fine in the pouring rain.
When I got to the third floor of the museum and saw the line to get into the exhibit, I was surprised. I did not expect a long line to get into an exhibit. Long lines are good, I figured, since people will line up for days in front of Best Buy to get the newest game system.
I was wrong about long lines being good. I was disappointed with the exhibit. All of the Smithsonian’s displays are extremely well done. The artifacts are presented well with appealing plaques and videos to accompany them. This exhibit lacked any of the usual Smithsonian pizzaz.
The exhibit consisted of a small (for a museum) room with four tables with grey tablecloths. The room was silent in respect. We were encouraged to interact with Smithsonian staff and ask questions. No one talked.
One table was dedicated to each of the three areas affected by 9/11, plus an additional table for the TSA. The collection of objects wasn’t impressive like the other exhibits. Among the objects on display were Rudy Giuliani’s cell phone, a flight attendant’s log book, an airplane call button, and a briefcase. All of the objects were ordinary things we’ve all seen before in some context, but had played a part in an important day in the nation’s history.
Perhaps I’m unimpressed by the exhibit because this is one major part of history that I was alive to witness. After coming home from a day of fifth grade on 9/11, I remember watching the news with my family all evening. I remember how raw and scary it was. No exhibit could top reality.
The Smithsonian has an incredible collection of historical artifacts from all other parts of American history, which I find fascinating since those times seem so far off to me. Seeing something that I was alive for on display is completely different. The Smithsonian’s other collections of objects were all once just ordinary objects to some people, but time made them treasures. The objects on display that I saw were all ordinary things, but they all played a small part in the day that changes so much for this country.