National Guard July 2012 : Page 46

EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION NEWS Ordinary Objects, Extraordinary Stories The museum’s 9/11 Era Gallery will use some common objects to share some uncommon service HAT DO WE expect to see when we walk into a museum? Priceless, one-of-a-kind artifacts carefully en-closed in solid-glass cases? Rare images of histor-ical events? Descriptions of larger-than-life individuals who changed the course of history? What we really expect to see are stories—stories of peo-ple, of events, of change. The 9/11 Era Gallery, which will open in the National Guard Memorial Museum at the NGAUS headquarters in Washington, D.C., this fall, will be an exhibit full of incred-ible stories. A variety of artifacts and images, including two large pieces of steel from the World Trade Center in New York and uniforms worn by Guardsmen who responded in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, will relate their own stories. Not all stories, however, are told by such impressive artifacts. Sometimes, the most or-dinary objects can tell the most meaningful stories. For example, a worn plastic Gatorade bottle could not possibly mean much in the wake of such an incredible tragedy as the one that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001—or could it? The bottle is nothing remarkable. Its label is missing and green tape covers its familiar orange cap. It is filled with grayish-white particles that resemble a mixture of salt and pepper or, more accurately, ash. If you saw it lying on the street, you would consider it simple urban litter. But this bottle is so much more than that. Loaned to the museum by Sgt. Howard Wulforst, a soldier with the New York Army Guard’s 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry, this artifact represents one man’s personal and professional response to the terrorist attacks. W Wulforst reported for “bridge and tun-nel” duty in the wake of 9/11, helping to secure New York City’s transportation net-works. Yet in addition to his assigned duties, he was also on a personal mission to find his uncle, Eamon McEneaney, an execu-tive who worked in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Facing the grim reality that his uncle was dead and his remains might never be identified, Wulforst sought to give his fam-ily a physical means of finding, bringing home and mourning a lost loved one. One day he went to Ground Zero and, Gatorade bottle in hand, scooped a small pile of debris, “soft and rocky” as he recalls it. He planned to present the bottle to his uncle’s clos-est family members, but when McEneaney’s remains were unexpectedly identified, Wulforst instead had a historic ob-ject on his hands. The bottle will now sit in a case in the 9/11 Era Gallery. No less evocative than the two large pieces of World Trade Center steel that will reside in the same room, the bottle will stand as a remnant of a horrible national tragedy and a sym-bol of one man’s effort to grapple with a personal loss. It will encourage us to reflect and invite us to describe our own memories of 9/11. How many of us can connect, in one way or another, to that ordinary plastic bottle? What does the ash inside symbolize to us? What do we think about when we look at it? Since Wulforst loaned the Gatorade bottle to the museum, other Guardsmen who re-sponded at Ground Zero have mentioned similar stories of collecting debris from the ground and storing it in makeshift con-tainers. It is a common act of remembrance, a tangible reminder of what happened. This is the power of museums. They can place everyday objects, un-extraordinary things, in a context that suddenly gives them power. Museums make things speak to us in ways we could never imagine. They tell us a story, and they offer us the chance to tell stories of our own. —By Amelia Meyer The author is the archivist for the National Guard Educational Foundation. She can be reached at (202) 408-5887 and amelia. meyer@ngaus.org. 46 | Na tional Guard

Educational Foundation News

Amelia Meyer

Ordinary Objects, Extraordinary Stories <br /> <br /> The museum’s 9/11 Era Gallery will use some common objects to share some uncommon service<br /> <br /> WHAT DO WE expect to see when we walk into a museum?<br /> <br /> Priceless, one-of-a-kind artifacts carefully enclosed in solid-glass cases? Rare images of historical events? Descriptions of larger-than-life individuals who changed the course of history?<br /> <br /> What we really expect to see are stories—stories of people, of events, of change.<br /> <br /> The 9/11 Era Gallery, which will open in the National Guard Memorial Museum at the NGAUS headquarters in Washington, D.C., this fall, will be an exhibit full of incredible stories.<br /> <br /> A variety of artifacts and images, including two large pieces of steel from the World Trade Center in New York and uniforms worn by Guardsmen who responded in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, will relate their own stories.<br /> <br /> Not all stories, however, are told by such impressive artifacts. Sometimes, the most ordinary objects can tell the most meaningful stories.<br /> <br /> For example, a worn plastic Gatorade bottle could not possibly mean much in the wake of such an incredible tragedy as the one that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001—or could it?<br /> <br /> The bottle is nothing remarkable. Its label is missing and green tape covers its familiar orange cap. It is filled with grayishwhite particles that resemble a mixture of salt and pepper or, more accurately, ash.<br /> <br /> If you saw it lying on the street, you would consider it simple urban litter. But this bottle is so much more than that.<br /> <br /> Loaned to the museum by Sgt. Howard Wulforst, a soldier with the New York Army Guard’s 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry, this artifact represents one man’s personal and professional response to the terrorist attacks.<br /> <br /> Wulforst reported for “bridge and tunnel” duty in the wake of 9/11, helping to secure New York City’s transportation networks.<br /> <br /> Yet in addition to his assigned duties, he was also on a personal mission to find his uncle, Eamon McEneaney, an executive who worked in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.<br /> <br /> Facing the grim reality that his uncle was dead and his remains might never be identified, Wulforst sought to give his family a physical means of finding, bringing home and mourning a lost loved one.<br /> <br /> One day he went to Ground Zero and, Gatorade bottle in hand, scooped a small pile of debris, “soft and rocky” as he recalls it. He planned to present the bottle to his uncle’s closest family members, but when McEneaney’s remains were unexpectedly identified, Wulforst instead had a historic object on his hands.<br /> <br /> The bottle will now sit in a case in the 9/11 Era Gallery.<br /> <br /> No less evocative than the two large pieces of World Trade Center steel that will reside in the same room, the bottle will stand as a remnant of a horrible national tragedy and a symbol of one man’s effort to grapple with a personal loss.<br /> <br /> It will encourage us to reflect and invite us to describe our own memories of 9/11.<br /> <br /> How many of us can connect, in one way or another, to that ordinary plastic bottle? What does the ash inside symbolize to us? What do we think about when we look at it?<br /> <br /> Since Wulforst loaned the Gatorade bottle to the museum, other Guardsmen who responded at Ground Zero have mentioned similar stories of collecting debris from the ground and storing it in makeshift containers.<br /> <br /> It is a common act of remembrance, a tangible reminder of what happened.<br /> <br /> This is the power of museums. They can place everyday objects, un-extraordinary things, in a context that suddenly gives them power.<br /> <br /> Museums make things speak to us in ways we could never imagine. They tell us a story, and they offer us the chance to tell stories of our own.<br /> <br /> —By Amelia Meyer<br /> <br /> The author is the archivist for the National Guard Educational Foundation. She can be reached at (202) 408-5887 and amelia. Meyer@ngaus.org.

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