New on View: Zoe and Dana Falkenberg's Dapper Stuffed Animals

  • July 25, 2022
A brown stuffed bear wearing a red tie (left) and a light blue stuffed dinosaur wearing a pink tie, holding a smaller orange stuffed dinosaur
Gift of Dr. Horace and Natalie Whittington
Two adults - a mustached man and a light brown-haired woman pose with two small girls on their laps

Charles Falkenberg, Leslie Whittington, and their daughters Dana (left) and Zoe. 

Last week, we completed our annual rotation of In Memoriam objects. With each rotation comes a new breadth of stories and memories honoring different victims of the 2001 and 1993 terrorist attacks. These personal objects highlight the essence of those we lost, allowing visitors to connect with and remember them on a deeper level. 

Among the items newly on display are a stuffed teddy bear and dinosaurs that belonged to sisters Zoe (age 8) and Dana (age 3) Falkenberg, who were killed on Flight 77 along with their parents, Leslie Whittington and Charles Falkenberg. The bear and one of the googly-eyed dinosaurs sport neckties; the smaller, second dinosaur sits cradled on the lap of the first. 

On the morning of September 11th, the Maryland-based family was just beginning an adventure on the other side of the world. Leslie, an economist at Georgetown, was pursuing a semester-long research fellowship at Australian National University in Canberra. A software engineer, Charles had taken leave from his own job as research director at ECOlogic so they could share the experience. They planned to move into a new home in Chevy Chase upon their return to the States, so they placed their belongings in storage prior to to the ill-fated morning.

At that point, the girls had already developed their own personalities. Zoe was a Girl Scout and huge Harry Potter fan. Her curly-haired little sister enjoyed nursery school and swimming at the local YMCA. Together they had amassed an impressive stuffed animal collection including many a Beanie Baby. A number of the Beanie Babies were noted as missing from storage, suggesting they'd been with the girls on the plane. An FBI investigator told the family he had spotted Dana carrying a stuffed Elmo on airport surveillance footage as well. The surviving toys were lovingly "adopted" by Zoe and Dana's maternal grandfather, Dr. Horace C. Whittington.

Dr. Whittington married his wife Natalie after 2001, so she never had the chance to meet Leslie, Charles, Dana, and Zoe. But when Dr. Whittington passed away, she reached out to the Museum about the plush animals, recognizing how much they had meant to her late husband and how powerfully they encapsulated the tragedy of 9/11. 

"The Falkenberg girls' stuffed animals really show how 9/11 made topsy turvy of natural intergenerational ties," said Jan Ramirez, the Museum's Chief Curator and Executive Vice President of Collections. "In this case, an elderly grandfather outliving his two young granddaughters and having to process that loss." 

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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