The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the Orlando nightclub shooting were all moments in time when we, collectively as a nation, set aside our petty bickering to come together in mourning.
We have had no shortage of disasters of late, but one of the most unifying series of events in recent history were the four coordinated terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. These horrific moments are forever seared in our memories, and there's a catharsis to talking about where we were upon first hearing the devastating news.
Now, in remembrance of the 15th anniversary of those attacks, the National Museum of Funeral History has created a temporary exhibit that invites visitors to share their thoughts and memories in guest books. “We know that we will never forget,” says Genevieve Keeney, the museum's president. “We want to know where they were at the time the towers fell, what they were doing.”
The museum's “United We Stand, United We Signed” exhibit also contains a sampling of more than 500 memorial books from 2001. “These register books were put out by every single Dignity Memorial location in the United States, including Canada and Hawaii, on the day after 9/11,” says Keeney. “I've cried several tears already doing all the research for this exhibit. Not only reliving the moment, but I'm actually holding things from that time period. [Reading] the words from other people, the depth of their compassion, is moving in and of itself.” Keeney says the books, which contain pictures drawn by children and notes left to the families of the deceased, have never been viewed by the public until now.
The newly signed books from this exhibit, as well as the original books signed in 2001, will become part of a future 20th anniversary exhibit in 2021. “We want to hear the stories. We want the people to continue building on this exhibit. We never want to forget the people that we lost,” says Keeney. She says that events like 9/11 serve to remind us that it's our compassion toward others that makes us human.
The exhibit includes a pair of urns containing ashes from Ground Zero and memory books stacked to replicate the World Trade Center twin towers. While visiting the museum, please also view the permanent "9/11 and Fallen Heroes Tribute," which honors and recognizes first responders.
“United We Stand, United We Signed” run September 1 through December 31, at National Museum of Funeral History, 415 Barren Springs, open Mondays through Fridays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays noon to 5 p.m., 281-876-3063, nmfh.org. Free to $10.