9/11: Events of the Day

9/11 Primary Day

The events of 9/11 represented a rupture of America’s understanding of the world, none of which was clear as the events began to unfold. Prior to the crash of the first plane into the North Tower, New Yorkers were bustling with activities typical of the morning rush. Parents were sending children off to school, which had just resumed after Labor Day. Others were hastening to the polls to do their civic duty by voting in the city’s primary elections. In retrospect, these routine activities may have played a substantial role in saving lives on that fateful day, as they positioned many World Trade Center employees far from their offices.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum is actively acquiring materials related to the September 11 primaries as part of a larger effort to document the disruptions to notions of “normalcy” that prevailed before 8:46 a.m. One example is a pin-back button worn by supporters of Betsy Gotbaum, who was running as a Democrat for Public Advocate. Gotbaum, who left her position as president of the New-York Historical Society the previous spring to launch her campaign, was on the streets that morning greeting passersby while urging them to vote. As a result of the collapse of the World Trade Center, Governor George Pataki declared a statewide emergency and suspended the elections, which were rescheduled for September 25. The button recalls that immediately prior to the terrorist strikes on the United States, New York City’s lead media story focused on the hotly fought contests for Democratic mayor, public advocate and other office nominations.

Other election-related materials in the permanent collection include various brochures, pamphlets and mailers -- some in multiple languages -- urging voters to participate in this civic obligation scheduled for September 11, issued by supporters of candidates ranging from Fernando Ferrer, Borough President of the Bronx running for Mayor, and Sheldon Leffler, aiming to be elected Borough President of Queens, to Matthew Ferrell, a Democrat running for City Council. Deepening these resources is a red tag used as a seal for the opening and closing of poll boxes and a “Downtown Independent Democrats” flyer printed as a door hanger onto which FDNY first-responder Lt. Mickey Kross scrawled a hasty note alerting his girlfriend who lived nearby that he had survived the collapse and was miraculously “OK” amid the devastation. This collection is a work in progress and the Memorial Museum’s curator would be eager to receive additional September 11 Primary Day artifacts.