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ARTIFACTS FROM THE 9/11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM: J.J. McLoughlin says his father almost tossed out the boots, whose soles had dry-rotted years ago. Instead, the family gave them to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. John McLoughlin was in a medically induced coma for six weeks, had more than 30 operations, spent months hospitalized, and still has health issues. Now 68 and retired since 2004, he volunteers with the Boy Scouts. GIFT OF JOHN MCLOUGHLIN (Photo by Henry Leutwyler/National Geographic)

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Sgt. John McLoughlin and Officers William Jimeno and Dominick Pezzulo of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) brought rescue equipment to aid in the evacuation at the World Trade Center. They saw the South Tower start to collapse above them, and when all fell still, they found themselves buried under thirty feet of rubble.

Officer Pezzulo was killed while trying to rescue the others. Trapped, Sgt. McLoughlin asked Officer Jimeno, then a rookie, to tell him his first name: Will. Officer Jimeno told him he was expecting a daughter; he wanted to name her Olivia. Thirteen hours later, a rescue team from the Emergency Service Unit of the NYPD would free Officer Jimeno. Sgt. McLoughlin was rescued after twenty-two hours, just after the clock struck 7:00 on the morning of September 12th.

The boots Sgt. McLoughlin wore that day are among the 70,000 artifacts now housed at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan. For the September issue of National Geographic, Henry Leutwyler photographed some of the objects from the collection, many of them unseen by the general public until now. To coincide with the publication, more than 30 photographs from the project will be on view at Foley Gallery in New York as part of Sacred Dust: Photographs by Henry Leutwyler.

Among the rescued artifacts photographed by Leutwyler are a broken keyboard, a plastic lid, a sprinkler head, a Rolodex, plane parts, and family photographs. In the National Geographic feature, you’ll find a watch that belonged to Rosemary Smith, who worked at the Sidley Austin Brown & Wood law firm. It’s stopped at just before 1:00.

You’ll also discover a pair of pants worn by an EMT named Greg Gully, who spent four days at Ground Zero, searching for survivors. When he got home, he was unable to wash the dust from his pants, realizing that the ashes were the remains of the people who’d died. And there’s the helmet that was worn by Firefighter Joseph Gerard Hunter of FDNY Squad 288, who was killed while helping to evacuate the South Tower. 

Leutwyler was in New York City when the Towers collapsed. To make these pictures, he spent weeks and months with these objects, housed in archives and private collections. Like the artifacts themselves, Leutwyler’s photographs have become memorials in their own right. The prints exhibited at Foley Gallery are not available for purchase. 

Instead, they will become part of the permanent collection at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, where they will join tens of thousands of artifacts, including that worn pair of boots that once belonged to Sgt. John McLoughlin. After he was pulled from the rubble, it was uncertain if Sgt. McLoughlin would ever walk again. But four months later, as the last steel column was removed from Ground Zero, he was walking once more, with Officer Jimeno by his side.

You can see Leutwyler’s prints in person at Foley Gallery through September 25th, 2021. You can find all the images in the September issue of National Geographic magazine and online at NatGeo.com. National Geographic‘s four-night limited series, 9/11: One Day in America is available to view on Hulu. 

ARTIFACTS FROM THE 9/11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM: Many of the recovered objects were distorted by force and fire. Investigators identified this fragment as a Boeing 767 aircraft wing-flap support, most likely from the jet that hit the south tower. It was wedged in a crevice between two buildings several blocks north of ground zero and wasn’t found until 12 years after the attacks. WITH PERMISSION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK AND THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (Photo by Henry Leutwyler/National Geographic)
ARTIFACTS FROM THE 9/11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM: The collapse of the twin towers generated tremendous force: Many objects inside the 110-story buildings were pulverized as upper floors dropped onto lower ones. Hardier materials later recovered from the ground zero debris field include copper wiring, glass fused by heat, concrete and carpet. COURTESY THE PORT AUTHORITY  (Photo by Henry Leutwyler/National Geographic)
ARTIFACTS FROM THE 9/11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM: Recovery workers spent nine months excavating debris from ground zero and searching for remains of victims. In 2006, New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner launched another search for remains in the area where the World Trade Center buildings had stood. Among the many everyday items discovered during that canvass: a broken, dirt-encrusted keyboard from investment holding company Garban Intercapital and a plastic lid from a food container. COURTESY THE PORT AUTHORITY (Photo by Henry Leutwyler/National Geographic)
ARTIFACTS FROM THE 9/11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM: The collapse of the twin towers generated tremendous force: Many objects inside the 110-story buildings were pulverized as upper floors dropped onto lower ones. Hardier materials later recovered from the ground zero debris field include copper wiring, glass fused by heat, concrete and carpet. FROM THE PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY POLICE DEPARTMENT 9-11 TRAVELING MEMORIAL (Photo by Henry Leutwyler/National Geographic)

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