9/11 Lost and Found: The Items Left Behind

9/11 Lost and Found: The Items Left Behind

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The attacks of September 11, 2001 killed almost 3,000 people, shocked the world and forever seared 9/11 into memory as a date filled with tragedy, loss and heroism. Artifacts recovered from the attacks, meanwhile, became imbued with solemn significance.

By September 12, anyone who had survived the collapse of the World Trade Center and became trapped in the rubble, had been recovered. Ground Zero workers then began the heartbreaking and dangerous job of searching for remains through massive mounds of debris.

By May 2002, workers had moved more than 108,000 truckloads–1.8 million tons–of rubble to a Staten Island landfill. However, fires burned underground for months, leaving downtown Manhattan in smoke and dust with the intense smell of burning rubber, plastic and steel.

SEE MORE: September 11: Photos of the Worst Terrorist Attack on U.S. Soil

A few years later, work began at Ground Zero to build what would become the 1,776-foot-tall Freedom Tower and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. In May of 2014, the 9/11 Memorial Museum opened in New York by the World Trade Center site. The museum honors the many victims of the attacks and all those who risked their lives to rescue and save others.

Over the years, the museum has worked to document the events of 9/11 with oral histories and over 11,000 artifacts collected from Ground Zero, donated from survivors and victims’ loved ones. Here is a look at some of the items in their collection, and the heavy stories they carry.

This pair of women’s heels belonged to Fiduciary Trust employee Linda Raisch-Lopez, a survivor of the attacks on the World Trade Center. She began her evacuation from the 97th floor of the South Tower after seeing flames from the North Tower. She removed her shoes and carried them as she headed down the stairs, reaching the 67th floor when the South Tower was struck by Flight 175.

As she headed uptown to escape, she put her shoes back on, and they became bloody from her cut and blistered feet. She donated her shoes to the museum.

This American Airlines flight attendant wings lapel pin belonged to Karyn Ramsey, friend and colleague of 28-year-old Sara Elizabeth Low, who was working aboard Flight 11, which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Following the memorial service for Sara, Karyn pinned her own service wing on Sara’s father, Mike Low. Mike Low would refer to the lapel pin as “Karyn’s wings.” Watch this video to learn more.

This pager, recovered from Ground Zero, belonged to Andrea Lyn Haberman. Haberman, who lived in Chicago, was in New York City on September 11, 2001 for a meeting at Carr Futures offices, located on the 92nd floor of the North Tower. It was Haberman’s first time visiting New York; she was only 25 years old when she was killed in the attacks.

On the morning of September 11, 55-year-old Robert Joseph Gschaar was working on the 92nd floor of the South Tower. At the time of the attack, he called his wife to let her know about the incident and reassured her that he would safely evacuate. Robert did not make it out of the tower alive. A year after the attacks his wallet and wedding ring were recovered.

Inside his wallet was a $2 bill. Robert and his wife, Myrta, carried around $2 bills during their 11-year marriage to remind each other that they were two of a kind.

On September 11, FDNY Squad 18 responded to the attacks on the Twin Towers. Among this unit was David Halderman, who was a firefighter just like his father and brother. His helmet was found crushed on September 12, 2001 and given to his brother, Michael, who believes his death was due to the the collapse of the tower and a strike to the head. David Halderman’s body was not recovered until October 25, 2001.

This I.D. card belonged to Abraham J. Zelmanowitz, an Empire BlueCross BlueShield computer programmer. On the morning of the attacks, he was working on the 27th floor of the North Tower, along with a wheelchair-bound friend, Edward Beyea. Zelmanowitz decided to stay behind to remain by his friend’s side as the rest of the company began to evacuate. Coworkers who evacuated informed professional emergency responders that the two were awaiting assistance inside.

FDNY Captain William Francis Burke, Jr. arrived at the scene on the 27th floor as the South Tower began to collapse. Burke, with the same bravery as Zelmanowitz, sacrificed his life to help others by telling his team to evacuate to safety while he stayed behind to try and help Zelmanowitz and Beyea. The three men would only make it as far down as the 21st floor, making phone calls to loved ones before their deaths.

This gold link bracelet belonged to Yvette Nicole Moreno. Bronx native Yvette Nicole Moreno was working as a receptionist at Carr Futures on the 92nd floor of the North Tower, after recently being promoted from a temporary position. After the North Tower was hit, she called her mother to let her know she was heading home. However, on her way out of the office she was struck by debris from the South Tower, dying at the young age of 24.

This baseball cap belonged to 22-year veteran of the Port Authority Police Department, James Francis Lynch. At the time of the attacks, James was off duty and recovering from surgery, but felt the need to respond. He had previously responded to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He died at the age of 47 that day, and his body was not recovered until December 7, 2001.

This police badge belonged to John William Perry, a New York Police Department officer with the 40th Precinct and a N.Y. State Guard first lieutenant. He was another off-duty officer who responded to the attacks. He had plans to retire from the police force to pursue a career as a full-time lawyer. He was 38 years old.

On March 30, 2002 a firefighter working at Ground Zero found a bible fused to a piece of metal. The bible was open to a page with fragments of legible text reading “an eye for an eye” and “resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Watch this video to learn more about the bible.

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The Things They Left Behind

Before the National September 11 Memorial Museum, an impromptu museum of World Trade Center artifacts existed in Hangar 17 at Kennedy International Airport, which the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey used to store as many as 1,284 objects. Today, the hangar is almost empty, because the authority has found homes for most of the artifacts. Those that remain — not yet picked up or claimed — paint a poignant picture of everyday life at the trade center before Sept. 11, 2001, and the recovery efforts that followed. Related Article

Early in the recovery effort, a team of workers set out on the extremely hazardous job of exploring what remained of the shopping concourse.

"There was an opening in the ground," said Mark Schaming, the director of the New York State Museum in Albany. Within it was a startlingly familiar figure. "They saw this Bugs Bunny coming out of the wreckage of the World Trade Center."

The museum, which has amassed a substantial collection of artifacts related to the terrorist attack, decided to acquire the Bugs and Tweety Bird figures that were displayed in the Warner Bros. store.

"We thought they had resonance," Mr. Schaming said. "People relate to them as animated, popular-culture objects. It offers another touchstone."

In 2003, enormous "tridents" from the facades of the twin towers, visible in this photo under the American flag, filled the floor of Hangar 17. About 840 structural steel elements were salvaged. Many of them were cut into more manageable sizes, yielding a total of 2,200 pieces. All told, 1,500 eligible organizations nationwide and around the world received artifacts, Erica Dumas, a spokeswoman for the Port Authority, said.

A few Port Authority Police Department vehicles are all that remain of a fleet of damaged and destroyed vehicles that were stored in the hangar. Car No. 52320, in the foreground of this photograph, is destined for the Fire Department of Weymouth, Mass., Ms. Dumas said. Artifacts have been distributed to institutions in every state and in Afghanistan, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, Ireland and South Korea.

Five World Trade Center was an L-shaped, nine-story structure at the corner of Vesey and Church Streets. It housed Credit Suisse First Boston. Though gutted by fire, the building remained standing after the attack and was torn down months later. No one has requested the sign yet, Ms. Dumas said, but the section of the rooftop antenna seen in the background of this photograph is bound for the Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, N.Y.

Recovery workers cut mementos, like these crosses and stars of David, from steel columns and beams, typically in the area between the flanges that is known as the web. One of the small steel crosses is in the collection of the New York State Museum. The piece shown above has been given to Lodge No. 1493 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks in Beacon, N.Y. Ms. Dumas said only about 30 artifacts remain unassigned.

"I first came upon the PATH rail cars in late September of 2001 when several of us went underground to inspect the condition of the remains of the W.T.C. PATH station beneath the rubble and burning debris," Peter L. Rinaldi, a retired Port Authority engineer, recalled. "There were six empty PATH cars still in the station at that time, three of which were badly damaged and three were not, including Car 745, the head car. It was then that the thought first entered my mind that maybe we could save one of these cars as an artifact for future use." In February 2002, he said, cars No. 745 and No. 143 were extracted from the ruins. The lead car is now at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Conn. Its companion is still unclaimed.

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of one of the Warner Bros. figures acquired by the museum. It is Tweety Bird, not Tweetie Pie.

(7:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Gate Agent Asks If 9/11 Hijacker Atta’s Luggage Has Been Loaded onto Flight 11

An unnamed gate agent at Logan Airport in Boston calls Donald Bennett, the crew chief for Flight 11, and asks him if the two suitcases of a passenger who has just boarded the plane have arrived from US Airways. Bennett replies that the suitcases, which belong to lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, have arrived, but Flight 11’s baggage compartment has already been locked for departure, so they will not be loaded. Atta flew from Portland to Boston on a Colgan Air flight operated for US Airways (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). American Airlines baggage expediter Philip Depasquale will later claim that bags from US Airways are always late, and so this problem is a common occurrence. The luggage is turned over to Depasquale to have it sent to Los Angeles on another flight. According to Salvatore Misuraca, a ramp service manager for American Airlines at Logan Airport, gate agents do not usually call about a bag unless the passenger that owns it has specifically asked about it, to ensure that their bags have been put on their flight. Atta’s luggage will remain at Logan Airport and be found after the attacks, revealing important clues (see September 11-13, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/17/2001 9/11 Commission, 2/10/2004]

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What Happens to the Heartbreaking Tributes Left at the 9/11 Memorial

The expressions of mourning left behind at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum are cleared nightly and preserved.

They were trinkets that whispered to lives wrenched away.

A jar of sand from Oahu for a sister who danced on its shore. A blue herringbone scarf for the flight attendant who had taken a fateful extra shift. Six scraps of notebook paper, each with a word in Spanish written to the father of four from the Bronx. “Hay gente aun que te aman .” There are still people who love you.

Left at the plaza of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Lower Manhattan, the items were placed with no expectation they would linger any longer than one night .

But even the tiniest of tributes can express so much — so these items, along with thousands of others left behind, made their way into the museum’s vast storage facilities. There, artifacts of unremarkable appearance — a tiny teddy bear, a seashell, a ribbon for a No. 1 dad — are considered valuable expressions of mourning that continue the narrative of Sept. 11.

Impromptu memorials are the first tendrils of hope after tragedy, public declarations that someone is remembered, something good endured. Even posters of the missing remained up for years out of respect to the 2,977 victims.

“It really was: Where does the tribute landscape begin and where does it end?” recalled Lisa Conte, head of conservation at the 9/11 museum.

There was an intrinsic sensitivity to tributes by the time the memorial opened in the footprints of the twin towers on the 10th anniversary of the attack.

“We had made the decision from the get-go that this site would be cleaned every night so that every time a visitor stepped onto it, they could experience it fresh,” said Jan Ramirez, the museum’s chief curator. “We knew those trinkets had to go somewhere, so we wanted to build in the opportunity to collect them respectfully.”


The museum itself can be difficult for family members, many of whom prefer to stick to the outdoor memorial with its twin reflecting pools of falling water bordered by bronze panels on which victims’ names are carved. It also serves as a symbolic gravesite for bodies that were never recovered.

“We know that her blood was part of that ground,” Martha Hale Farrell said of her sister Maile Rachel Hale, who was 26 when she attended a financial technology conference on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

When Ms. Farrell, 43, and her sister, Marilyce Hale Rattigan, visited the memorial eight years ago, they brought along leis, ballet slippers, a bag of M & Ms, a mini soccer ball and a jar of sand to leave in honor of Ms. Hale.

“The magnitude is striking,” Ms. Rattigan, 46, said, “but for us, it was always a personal loss.”

The sisters were delighted to later learn that some of those items were displayed in the museum. A friend of theirs who visited had burst into tears at the sight.

“These beautiful things that were left for our own personal closure are touching people that never met her,” said Ms. Farrell. “It humanizes her to have people understand the weight of the beauty that was lost that day.”

The most common tributes left around the plaza tend to be flowers, photos, flags, embroidered patches, stuffed animals, ribbons and prayer cards. Tape or rocks are often used to secure items on the slanted parapets that line the pools.

“There’s only one way to get the photo to stay and not blow in the wind — you tape it to a chopstick and stick it in the groove,” said Corey Gaudioso, 28, who has brought family pictures over the years for his sister, Candace Lee Williams , a 20-year-old college student who was aboard the plane that crashed into the North Tower.

“We don’t want her to just be a name among names,” he said.

Letters are folded and tucked into inscriptions. Some are general and appear to be quickly jotted down by a visitor inspired in the moment. Others are more intimate.

“Jim, she is all grown up now, you would be proud,” read one for a New York Police Department detective whose parents were left to raise his daughter. It was placed on the Memorial Glade, the monoliths added earlier this year to salute those who suffered or died because of illnesses linked to ground zero.

Even strangers can leave words that haunt.

“I won’t forget you. Not now, not now I’ve been here. It’s strange, writing a letter to a person you’ve never met and never will,” wrote 15-year-old Eleanor Smith of Welwyn, England, to Christine Lee Hanson, who was 2 years old when she died aboard United Flight 175 . “It seems important, though, that I do write. That I let you know you’re remembered. That, although you’re not the only name here, you’re the one I came to find.”

Christine’s aunt, Kathryn Barrere, who initially believed a 9/11 museum would be tacky, has found much comfort in such tributes. “That had to be one of the most beautiful things,” Ms. Barrere, 58, said. “Did the terrorists ever think they could affect someone like that?”

Over the last year, about four dozen red bandannas and photos were left for Welles Crowther, the 24-year-old equities trader who helped people escape while wearing a handkerchief as a mask. Betty Ong, the American Airlines flight attendant who was celebrated as a national hero for the phone call she made before Flight 11 went down, constantly receives tiny stuffed bumblebees, a nod to her nickname “Bee.”

Tributes are collected each night by maintenance crews. Food and flowers are thrown away, as are beer cans and liquor bottles. Everything else is saved, taken to a secure area below the museum and placed in a metal cabinet next to a lab. Most end up in boxes that are stored at facilities in Jersey City and Rotterdam, N.Y.

Some, however, are cataloged and added to the official museum collection. Those tend to be tributes for victims for whom there is little information. A unique or unusual item can also make the cut, like the yellow helmet worn for three decades by a retired firefighter from the United Kingdom and the note left by Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, on a rainy December day “in admiration of the courage shown to rebuild.”

Tributes are entered into a database that keeps track of their dimensions and history. The museum does not keep an exact number of the total tributes it has saved, only of those that have made it into the collection: 312.

If a note is sealed, it remains that way. A letter placed five years ago near the name of Rajesh Mirpuri, a 30-year-old sales executive, will never be opened.

But staff members love to see a mystery tribute reveal itself. For years, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups appeared on the plaza, stumping Ms. Ramirez, the chief curator who had come to learn many of the families’ histories. Then one day, Rob Fazio appeared with his family, all in orange shirts with a familiar candy logo. His father, Ronald, an accountant last seen holding the door open to a stairwell in the South Tower, had been addicted to the sweets.

“It has come the point to where we’ll get random pictures from people we don’t even know that leave Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on his name at the memorial, or people will send pictures of their kids eating a Reese’s there,” Mr. Fazio, 45, said.

Mr. Fazio is among those who look forward to the anniversary of Sept. 11 when the memorial is closed to the public in the morning and families arrive to hear the victims’ names read aloud. Others who lost loved ones avoid the memorial altogether, unable to find peace at the popular tourist attraction.

“It’s just too much and you’re sensitive to everything, to the memory, to what happened,” said Harry Ong Jr., 70, Betty Ong’s brother. “As a family we’re glad that people respect and honor Betty for what she’s done, and her legacy has carried on. But it’s bittersweet. We just wish she was still alive and with us and not on the plane that day.”

9 of the Weirdest Lost-and-found Items in the World

Maybe you've lost a pair of sunglasses. Maybe you've found someone else's earring. Maybe those items turn up in a lost-and-found area somewhere — a hotel, an amusement park, a school. That's great and all, but it's likely that your experience pales in comparison to these cool, unique and weird artifacts that have turned up in lost-and-founds around the world.

1. An Actual Human Skull

The Bureau of Found Objects in the southern end of Paris is a massive repository of the city's lost items. The centralized collection was formed in the 1800s during the time of Napoleon and now receives up to 700 items a day that have been found on the metro, in restaurants, museums, airports, streets and other locations. Although some of the items eventually are claimed, many are not, including a real human skull that was found in a Paris train station near the catacombs. The city's catacombs include 200 miles (322 kilometers) of tunnels that have walls neatly lined with about 7 million human skeletons, some dating back more than 1,200 years. Although no one at the bureau quite knows how the skull was removed, chances are some "body" is missing it.

2. A Wedding Dress With Matching Shoes

Deep within Paris' Bureau of Found Objects, a museum of the strange — musée de l'insolite— has been set up with some of Paris' most fascinating lost items. There's a hoverboard, a human-sized replica of a Paris street lamp, a plaster Jesus Christ statue, military medals and even a saber from the late 1890s. One set of objects, however, prompts a string of questions about the circumstances that would lead to its residence in a hotel for abandoned things: a wedding dress and matching shoes, all of which are new, clean and in a garment bag as if it were the day they were to be worn. Although the bridal set's origins are a mystery, bureau employees point to a well-worn story that it was left in the back of a cab after a lovers' quarrel — and never sought again.

3. Pieces of the World Trade Center

One of the most poignant items at the Bureau of Found Objects has yet to be claimed and originates, not from France, but from the United States. It is a red pouch holding three concrete pieces from the World Trade Center that was discovered in an abandoned suitcase in Paris shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept.11, 2001. The suitcase also contained the bright-orange vest of a New York City transit employee.

4. A Missile Guidance System

Sure, the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, has plenty of what you might expect: flash drives, socks, umbrellas and the occasional Scottish kilt. But over the last 40 years of unpacking suitcases lost during air travel, the center's employees have come across some national treasures, too. A camera from a space shuttle was recovered, identified and promptly sent back to NASA. The missile guidance system for a fighter jet was the real jaw-dropper, though. The functional system was outfitted with a plaque that read, "Handle with extreme caution. I am worth my weight in gold." After taking a few minutes to collect themselves, Unclaimed Baggage Center employees contacted the Air Force and returned the fighter jet gear.

5. A 5.8-Carat Diamond Ring

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is not your typical lost-and-found. The building covers an entire city block and has become one of Alabama's top tourist attractions, hosting more than a million visitors each year. Among the valuable — and just plain interesting — lost items that have ended up there is a Limoges vase that sold to a customer for $80 but was later valued at $18,000. A painting that originally was marked at $60 was later found to be worth a whopping $25,000. One of the most stunning finds was a 5.8-carat diamond and platinum ring that was packed in a sock and tucked away in an unclaimed suitcase.

6. 50 Vacuum-packed Frogs

After a three-month-long tracing process to find the owners or pay out any claims, the airlines sell any remaining lost baggage to the Unclaimed Baggage Center. Clothes are dry-cleaned or laundered, jewelry is cleaned and appraised, electronics are wiped of their memory caches and tested. Once, sorters at the Unclaimed Baggage Center discovered 50 vacuum-packed frogs packed into someone's luggage. No word on the state of the frogs' existence, or exactly what type of frogs they were, but the find was notable enough to become Unclaimed Baggage Center legend.

7. A Headstone . Already Engraved

According to the Unclaimed Baggage Center, 99.5 percent of the checked bags transported during domestic airline travel get to where they are going. The remaining 0.5 percent? Most of the items are given a second life, but at least one item clearly already had one an engraved headstone was recovered from someone's unclaimed luggage. Eventually, a visitor to the Unclaimed Baggage Center bought it and turned it into a coffee table.

8. A Prosthetic Leg

From umbrellas to novels, more than 300,000 objects are forgotten in London's trains and buses each year. In the Transport for London lost property division, a child-sized stuffed Spider-Man perches atop an exposed air duct, and a tribal mask is propped beside the head of a taxidermy warthog. And in one of the division's relatively rare happy endings, an urn of ashes that resided on a shelf for nearly seven years was finally returned to its rightful owner. However, one of the most shocking lost items was surely missed immediately — but oddly, never claimed. A prosthetic leg, with an athletic shoe attached, still awaits its owner.

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9/11 ten years on: The children left behind

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More than 3,000 children under the age of 18 lost a parent on 11 September 2001. The average age of these "9/11 kids" was nine – but some were just babies, and some weren't even born.

Some were the children of firefighters or office workers who died when the World Trade Center was attacked by two planes hijacked by al-Qa'ida terrorists others had parents who were working in the Pentagon, which was hit by a third hijacked aircraft others were the children of passengers on board the planes involved in those attacks or on a fourth hijacked plane, which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

The grief of losing a father or a mother in the world's worst terrorist atrocity was complicated. Next weekend will mark 10 years since the trauma. For the children who mourn, it's a chance to reflect on what's happened in that decade, as well as to remember anew the parents who didn't live to see them grow up. Many of their stories are featured in a Channel 4 documentary, Children of 9/11 – and some of those who took part in the programme have also shared their stories with us.

Madison, Halley and Anna Clare Burnett

Now 15, twins Madison and Halley Burnett were five, and their sister, Anna Clare, only three when their father, Tom, a medical research executive, became one of 44 people to die aboard United Airlines Flight 93. He called his wife, Deena, from the hijacked plane, and is credited as one of the passengers who thwarted the terrorists' plans to hit either the White House or the Capitol – instead, it crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania

Madison We were only little, but we'll never forget that morning. We were all in the sitting room, and mum got a phone call and I remember her crying hysterically, but she wouldn't tell us what was wrong. What we didn't know was that it was my dad, phoning to say that he was on board a hijacked plane.

She turned on the TV and we could see these buildings falling down. It was all really crazy – we didn't know what was happening. I just remember the sound of my mum crying, and staring in horror at the images on the TV.

I think my mum must have phoned someone to take us to school. and then most of the rest of the day is a blank, although what I do remember – much later – is looking out of the window when it was dark, and seeing that our neighbours had formed a human chain around our home, to stop the TV cameramen and journalists getting near to us. And that was when my mum told us that Dad had died, that he wouldn't be coming back.

Losing a parent on 9/11 was a bit different from losing a parent to say, cancer, or in a car crash. To start with, everyone knew about it – so, wherever you went, people wanted to stop us and tell us how sorry they were. You'd never go out without getting this attention. It seemed a bit creepy, that everyone seemed to know everything about us.

One thing that ate away at me for a long time was that I always used to say a prayer for my dad when he was away on a trip and that night, the night before he died, I forgot. I kept that inside myself for years, but I felt really guilty about it. Somewhere inside, I thought it was all my fault. Now, though, I've talked to my mum about it and of course she's reassured me that it couldn't possibly have been my fault. But somewhere, deep inside, part of me still thinks that, just possibly, it was.

It's very difficult to think of anything positive that comes of losing a parent like this, but I do try to think about what I've learned. I think it's so important to talk, to explore how you feel. I don't know what I'll do when I'm older, but I guess I might do something that's related to what's happened to me in losing my dad. It feels like everything in my life has been affected by 9/11, so I think it's quite likely that what I choose to do as a job might be affected by it, too.

I have lots of good memories of my dad: he was so warm, and he loved us so much. When he came home from work, we'd all hide behind the couch, then pop out and say: "Surprise!" He always pretended to be surprised. And, of course, I'm proud of him, too, and of what he did on board the flight.

One thing I think about a lot is: what would my dad want for us now? What he'd have most wanted is simply for us to be happy, I think. He would have wanted my mum to remarry, and he would have wanted our lives to turn out pretty much as they have now.

Halley I feel very proud of my dad and what he did on 9/11 I think we all do. He was very funny, and he was a born leader he was always the person in control. He was very good at taking decisions, and people respected his decision-making and trusted him. So I can see why he did what he did on board that plane.

If he came back now I think he'd be proud of us, too, of how we all turned out. I think he'd be pleased with our accomplishments, of the things we've worked hard for in school. I'd tell him about my grades, and about my basketball – he'd have been happy with that, because he was a sporty guy. I'll always miss him.

Anna Clare Even though I was only little, I remember that morning I remember my mum rushing upstairs to check the flight my dad was on, because they were saying the flight numbers that were affected on the television. And then the phone rang and it was my dad, and I asked if I could talk to him. Then, later that day, my mum told us all that he had died: she said a bad guy hijacked the plane. I didn't believe he was dead: for about a year afterwards I thought he was coming back. I was always asking my mum, "When is Daddy going to be home?"

Now my mum has a new husband – she got married again four years ago. It was difficult, a new guy coming into our family – and he has a 21-year-old son, so things changed a lot for us. For a while it was all a bit awkward – my sisters and I were worried that he'd take our dad's role, and we knew we wouldn't like that. To tell the truth, I didn't want a new man in our family. At first, I even tried to talk my mum out of marrying him.

But now things are fine. The wedding day was lots of fun – we had our hair done, and we got to go to church in a limo. And now I like it for my mum that she's got someone. I always used to notice how she was on her own at couples' events at school. and now she isn't, she's half a couple, and that's really good for her.

Rodney, 21, was 11 years old when his mother, Marsha, died at the Pentagon

I woke up with a stomach ache on 11 September 2001, and it was really bad. So I asked my mum if I could stay at home, and she could take the day off work to look after me. But she said no – I had to go to school, and she had to go to work. And so we did: but when she walked out the door that morning, it was the last time I ever saw her.

A few hours later I was in school when a teacher came into the classroom and told our teacher to switch on the television. So we turned it on and we saw the World Trade Center getting hit. And then, just a bit later, there was a huge boom and the whole school shook. I remember ducking under my desk and saying: "Mama! I want my mama." What I couldn't have known was that my mama was at the centre of what I could hear happening – because a hijacked jet had just hit the Pentagon, where she worked as an IT technician.

The first thing I saw when I got home was my dad. He was on the phone and he was crying. The television was showing pictures of the Pentagon in flames.

But we didn't give up on my mama coming home for ages. Some people still thought they might find her days and weeks later, because we knew there were survivors lying unconscious in hospital, and we prayed she was one of them. There was so much chaos, and we knew it was possible. But, gradually, it got less and less likely.

My sister Marsha, who was eight, and my baby sister, Miranda, who was just nine months, and I all went to stay with our aunt in Alabama. Eventually, we had a memorial service for my mama, and that was really hard. She was amazing, my mama – the sweetest person, but really tough, too. We always used to say that you'd never want to be against my mum in a war, because she'd always be on the winning side – every time.

After my mum died I got really angry. I wanted to hurt other people, because of what I was going through. It felt so unfair that I was waking up every day with no mama to say good morning to. Because I was so full of anger, I didn't care about anyone else. I joined a gang: I was taking drugs, selling them. I was in a bad way. If my mama had been there, who knows if it would have happened? But my mama wasn't there, and I was all messed up inside.

Things are much better now, because I've got a partner and she's got a daughter, and we're a family. My life has moved on. But what happened to my mum, that's always with me.

They never found her body, but she has a grave. It's a symbolic thing, a place where I can go to think about her and to talk to her. I hope that, if she's looking down on me, she's proud of me. I got involved in some bad things but I'm not a bad person and I managed to turn things round, and I know she'd be pleased about that.

Caitlin, 22, was 12 when her father, Tommy, a firefighter, died in the twin towers. His brother Peter – Caitlin's uncle – another firefighter, also died

I was on the cusp of who I was starting to be when I lost my daddy, and my daddy was such a big part of shaping who I was. I don't exactly remember the last time I saw him. It had been my brother Brian's birthday, so we had a party the weekend before, and that was maybe the last time. On the day it happened I was in school and at lunchtime there was a girl crying hysterically, because her dad worked in the World Trade Center. I went to try to help her, and said, "It's all going to be OK, don't worry. My daddy is a firefighter, and he'll be going in there to get your daddy out." Neither of our dads got out alive.

Brian and I went home from school together and, of course, the television was on and it seemed quite fascinating really, because we knew our daddy was a New York firefighter and we knew he would be in there somewhere, helping people, just like he was always in emergency situations helping people. He'd been in lots of dangerous places before and he'd always come home. He sometimes disappeared for a day or two, because it wasn't always easy to keep in touch in the midst of a huge emergency, but we knew that and we weren't thinking things were too bad for him.

But the day wore on into the evening, and still there was no call. I could tell my mum was getting worried. We all sat down together to watch George Bush's address on the telly, and all the time we were thinking about, talking about, how our dad was in there, helping people get out.

By night-time there was still no word, so when I went to bed I did what I always did when my dad was out on a dangerous assignment, I put one of his shirts on. It made me feel close to him. I felt sure he was alive, but that was a comforting thing to do. I thought it was just because the cellphones were down, or because he was so busy, that he hadn't called.

Over the next few days Brian and I carried on going to school, and things seemed normal, so I was still sure things would be OK. It was only when it got to a week after the attack that I started getting unsure. But, in a way, I was numb to it – it was simply too big a thing to contemplate, that he might never be coming back.

Neither my daddy's nor my Uncle Peter's bodies were ever found, but in the end we had a funeral for them. We don't know exactly what happened but I know that a man remembered talking to a tall firefighter with grey hair, who had helped him get out of one of the towers and then went back inside to help someone else. I'm sure that was my daddy: he would have carried on helping people, for as long as it took. In a way, it's the biggest consolation I have, that he at least died doing the job he loved. And I guess it's a help that he was there as a firefighter, that he was dedicated to what he did and that he was prepared to die to save others. That makes his death maybe easier to accept than it is for people whose relatives were office workers, people who never expected to be in any danger. My daddy knew his job was dangerous but he believed in it, he loved it. There was always this chance in his life, because it was part and parcel of what he did.

I'm so incredibly proud of him: he died being the best person he could possibly have been, and that's pretty special. When you've got to go, it's not a bad way to go. And I know that he'd have wanted me to strive to be the best possible person I can be, too.

There's a long tradition in my family of public service – they didn't earn a lot, in fact, my dad had to hold down two jobs, as both a cop and a part-time firefighter, to make enough money for our family. My mum was a nurse, but she'd been laid off. So we never had much money. Of course, 9/11 changed that because we got compensation. So, suddenly, I was the girl who could afford a new car when she passed her test, and who could go to university and live away from home. What made me mad was my friends who I knew were jealous of those things. I mean, do they think I'd rather have the cash than have my daddy back?

Recently, I decided I wanted a permanent memorial to my dad and I decided on a tattoo – I thought it would be a badge of honour. It's on my leg, and I picked a design that reminds me of him. It's like the police emblem, and the words are "Anytime Baby" which was the motto of his unit. And that really sums him up: he was a guy who would turn out any time, any where, to help other people. Having the tattoo done was painful, but I kept thinking that the pain was only temporary. The pain of losing Daddy never goes away, and it never will.

On 11 September I'll be with my mum and my brother at the memorial ceremony in Battery Park, near Ground Zero. Afterwards, we'll go to look round the new 9/11 museum – the families are the first people who are getting a chance to see it. We'll spend some time just quietly at the site of the towers, thinking about my daddy, because that's his grave, really. His body was never recovered, so that's where he lies. We'll all tell stories about Daddy, and we'll remember him. and I'll think, I was just so lucky to have known him. I was just so lucky that he was my daddy.

Thea, 20, was 10 when her father, Michael, who was a telecoms analyst in the World Trade Center, was killed in the attacks

It was a school day, but I had stayed at home because I had a doctor's appointment. I remember the phone ringing and my mum sounding panicky and saying "Michael!" down the line. I knew something was wrong, but I thought it was my uncle whose name is also Michael – my parents were divorced. But then she said no, no, it's your dad.

I had no idea what was going on, but then my mum rushed upstairs and turned on the TV, and she was looking at the pictures of the World Trade Center burning and – because she used to work there too – she was trying to give him ideas of how to get out. She was saying have you tried such-and-such a staircase, that sort of thing. But the thing is that he was on the 103rd floor, well above where the plane had struck. We didn't know it then, but his escape routes were all cut off.

After about 10 minutes, my dad went off the phone to try to find a way out, and my mum and I carried on watching the TV. And then, a while later, we saw the towers come down. I remember crying and screaming, but my mum was saying to me that my dad was the sort of person who'd always find a way out, and that he'd have made it down before the collapse. But I guess that in our hearts we knew that wasn't very likely.

The next day Mum went into Manhattan to put up posters saying my dad was missing, and we had a bit of hope that we'd find him that way. But we never did.

About a year later we got a call to say they'd found his remains. We'd hoped for that, but, of course, it was heartbreaking, too. We already knew he'd never be back, but this was the final certainty, and it was tough to bear. But at least we were able to bury him. There's a closure in burial.

The thing I've found hard to live with, through the years, is the thought that my dad's death was planned – that it was a murder, and that the murderers plotted for so long, and that they cared so little for the people whose lives they were going to take, or their families. I don't hate people because they're a certain religion or from a certain part of the world, but I hate the people who were involved – especially Osama bin Laden. His death earlier this year was certainly deserved: but, on the other hand, it didn't bring my dad or anyone else back.

My dad had always wanted to be a professional wrestler, and we shared a love of wrestling. He knew I wanted to become a professional wrestler, and fulfilling that ambition became much more important once he'd gone, because it was for him as well as for me. So now, 10 years on, that's what I do: I wrestle internationally. It's an unusual thing to do, especially for a 20-year-old woman, but I always imagine he's there in the front row. He'd be so proud to see me up there.

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