NEW YORK (AP) – For nearly six years, Andrea Haberman’s ashy and damaged wallet remained virtually intact in a drawer at her parents’ home in Wisconsin, along with a partially melted cell phone, her driver’s license , his credit cards, his checkbook and his house keys. Rust stains had formed on the edges of his glasses, their lenses had shattered and disappeared.
These everyday objects were the remnants of a young life that ended when a hijacked airliner struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Haberman was 25 and was about to be married when she was killed on a business trip from Chicago – her first visit to New York.
His things, which still smelled of Ground Zero, mostly evoked grief for Haberman’s family. To ease their pain, they donated the artifacts to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
“These are not the happy things you want to remember someone by”, said Gordon Haberman, his father.
The collection of some 22,000 personal artifacts – some on display at the 9/11 Museum and others on display in other museums across the country – offers a mosaic of lost lives and survival stories: wallets, passports, baseball gloves, shoes, clothes and rings.
“Each person who is part of this count was an individual who has lived a life”, said Jan Ramirez, chief curator and director of the museum’s collections.
“We knew that families – the people who lost a loved one that day – were going to need a place, a way, to remember the person who never came home from work, who didn’t. never returned from a flight “, Ramirez said.
Many of these personal effects were recovered from the ruins of what were once the Twin Towers. Other items were donated by survivors or the families of those who perished.
A wood square, screwdriver, pry bar and tool belt represent Sean Rooney, vice president of Aon Corp. died in the south tower. The essence of Rooney was that of “a builder,” said her sister-in-law Margot Eckert, making carpenter tools donated to the museum on “The perfect antidote to destruction”.
Rooney had called his wife, Beverly Eckert, at their Stamford, Connecticut home after being trapped by fire and smoke on the 105th floor. He spent his last breaths recounting happier moments, whispering, “I love you,” as he worked for the air.
His remains have never been found.
Beverly died eight years later in a plane crash on her way to her husband’s high school in Buffalo, New York, to award a scholarship in his honor. Before she died, she had put aside the items she hoped would help tell her husband’s story – that of a weekend carpenter, handyman and Habitat for Humanity volunteer.
“We have a grave for her, we don’t have a grave for Sean,” says Margot Eckert. “Artifacts are becoming very important. And the artifacts are the facts that someone has experienced. These are the facts you can touch.
For Robert Chin’s family, the story was one of a love for softball. They recounted his first hit – a practice on the third base line – while playing for Fiduciary Trust International. To help him savor the moment, his teammates scribbled congratulatory notes on the ball before presenting it to him.
Among the names on the ball were Pedro Francisco Checo and Ruben Esquilin Jr., also who died with Chin that day. This dusty softball that Chin had kept at home is one of the memorabilia in the 9/11 museum’s collection.
Not all donated artifacts are in the name of those who have died. Some were from those who survived September 11.
Linda Raisch-Lopez donated her bloody patent leather heels to represent her will to survive a day she ran for her life.
As she descended a stairwell from the 97th floor of the South Tower, she slipped off her heels. and walked through the debris barefoot, according to the museum’s account. Somewhere on the way to a jetty on the Hudson River, she had slipped into her shoes, smeared with blood on the tan leather of her severed, blistered feet.
Only a small portion of the museum’s collection of artifacts is never on display, as there is too much to show at one time. When not in public view, the artifacts are kept off-site, most at a facility across the Hudson River in New Jersey and others stored in a warehouse near Albany, New York. Rows of shelves are stacked with boxes filled with tragedy and remembrance.
“Each piece is a small part of a puzzle” Ramirez said. “Having these important little pieces of truth, these palpable pieces of truth – these bridges for people to engage in history – is the reason we do what we do and will continue to do what we do. “