9/11 takes its place alongside D-Day in museum
A French history museum dedicated to the World War II D-Day landings is set to unveil another event that changed the world: the September 11, 2001 attacks.6 June 2008
CAEN - A French history museum dedicated to the World War II D-Day landings is set to unveil the largest exhibit to date on another event that changed the world: the September 11, 2001 attacks.
"September 11: A Global Moment" opens Friday at the Caen memorial museum on
a day that for decades had been reserved for the solemn commemoration of the Allied landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944.
"We thought it would be the perfect place to tell the story of a different kind of war," said Mark Schaming, the director of exhibitions and programmes at the New York State Museum, home to the exhibit's artefacts.
A crushed police jeep, pieces of fuselage from the hijacked planes and twisted sheathing of the World Trade Centre towers: over 100 artefacts from the New York State Museum's collection of objects recovered from Ground Zero are on display until December 31.
But the exhibit also takes a broad view of the 9/11 attacks, with sections on the war in Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda, marking the first time that a major Western museum attempts to tackle the delicate context surrounding the 2001 terror plot.
The exhibit opens with a jarring sequence of images foreshadowing September 11: a photograph of the Afghan mujahedeen leader Ahmad Shah Masood, killed by Al-Qaeda allies two days before the 2001 attacks.
Then follow profiles of the 19 hijackers including a now-famous photograph of ringleader Mohammed Atta, glaring at the camera, and an 1998 interview of Osama bin Laden by a US television network in which he declared war on the United States.
"We believe that the biggest thieves in the world are Americans. We believe that the biggest terrorists in the world are Americans," he declares in the footage.
The Caen museum director, Stephane Grimaldi, said the exhibit presented the "European point of view" about the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon that left 2,973 dead.
"The Americans are still in mourning. That changes everything," Grimaldi said. "We are able to have more distance but at the same time, we Europeans know what war is all about."
Caen was the scene of fierce fighting in the weeks after D-Day as allied forces fought German troops who had fallen back from their positions on the Normandy coast and regrouped.
Grimaldi cites as an example the profiles of the hijackers, which do not feature in the New York State Museum's exhibit on September 11.
"We decided to show photographs of the 19 jihadists and show that they were not mad. These are young faces. They are not demented," he said.
With the prelude set for September 11, visitors walk up a stairway in a recreated tower to see firefighters' equipment recovered from Ground Zero and a photo display, including an image of President George W. Bush being told by his chief of staff of the attacks while visiting a school in Florida.
A timeline of the day shows a picture of Atta taken with surveillance cameras boarding American Airlines Flight 11 at 7:59 am at Boston's Logan airport.
At 8:46 am, the plane slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Centre, followed 16 minutes later by American Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the south tower and exploded. Both towers collapsed.
A photo taken when the fourth hijacked plane went down at 10:03 am after passengers on board fought back shows black billowing smoke over a red barn in the Pennsylvania countryside.
Dented ambulance doors, a smashed Toshiba laptop and remnants of a Rodin and a Calder sculpture also provide testimony to the day of destruction that was September 11.
A section of the exhibit on the world response features a headline from Le Monde newspaper proclaiming: "Nous sommes tous des Americains" (We are all Americans), epitomising European solidarity with a traumatised United States.
A fence adorned with flowers, wreaths, messages and US flags set up near Ground Zero has also been shipped from the museum in Albany, New York and set up in the Caen museum exhibit hall, testifying to the outpouring of grief that followed the attacks.
Schaming said he hopes the exhibit will help contribute to a more thorough understanding of September 11.
"I hope visitors will think about September 11 differently, maybe have a clearer idea, in terms of the scale, in terms of how the day unfolded, who did it, who was killed and who was affected."
[APF / Expatica]