The Memorial Tributes That Inspire Hope

A tribute card is left on the Memorial parapet and is ringed by fresh white and pink roses.
Photo by Ben Hider

More than 50 million visitors from all over the world have come to the 9/11 Memorial to pay tribute to the 2,983 victims of the February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001 attacks. Their presence at this site made sacred through loss has inspired hope, healing, and renewal—both within themselves and in the communities they return to.

During their visit to the 9/11 Memorial, some people choose to leave a physical object—what we call a “tribute”—on the name of a victim whose personal story resonates in the visitor’s own life. This simple act of solidarity speaks to the thoughtfulness of our visitors whose displays of creativity help us all to remember.

Some tributes appear regularly on a victim’s name because of their personal association with the object. These include the famous red bandanas on Welles Remy Crowther’s name, aviation pins on the names of the 9/11 flight crews, or an international flag on the name of a foreign national.

Others appear less frequently but are equally powerful in what new information they reveal. Both the story of Ron Fazio’s family leaving Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or friends of Betty “Bee” Ong leaving toy Bumblebees illustrate the personal significance of 9/11 and the beautiful response of so many who were close to them.

Pink and yellow flowers are left on one of the monoliths in the Memorial Glade.
Tributes left on the 9/11 Memorial Glade
Photo by Monika Graff

Since the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial Glade in May 2019, a new group of tributes has emerged. We see many prayer cards and flowers on the monoliths left as tribute to those brave men and women who worked during the nine-month rescue and recovery effort.

Each night, the tributes are removed from the Memorial to ensure what we call “a democracy of names,” meaning no one tribute can make the significance of one name greater than another’s. We cherish all the victims equally, and we ensure that visitors to experience the Memorial plaza in that way every day.

After collection, the tributes are evaluated one by one, and curators decide if the items left behind can and should be taken into the collection. Biodegradable material, such as flowers or food, cannot be preserved, and therefore cannot be accessioned into the Museum’s permanent collection. Furthermore, any sealed letters left on the plaza may be accessioned into the collection, but they are not opened out of respect for the letter writer’s privacy.

You can read more about the special care that tributes receive after they are left on the site. When we reopen the 9/11 Memorial, visitors are encouraged to leave a tribute as a sign of healing and remembrance.

By Timothy McGuirk, Communications Manager, 9/11 Memorial & Museum

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