Museum Scours World for New Videos of 9/11 Attacks
September 10, 2009 - 12:04 PMA camera in Brooklyn points through a chain-link fence at black smoke pouring from one skyscraper, while a plane pierces another. Papers fly through the sky; some of them end up in the filmmakers' hands.
That evening - Sept. 11, 2001 - another camera finds firefighters trudging through dust-caked streets, carrying their helmets or a spare pair of shoes. The spindly facade of the World Trade Center is before them.
The views of the terrorist attacks - one of the most recorded events of all time - are among hundreds of hours of amateur videos, images and stories gathered by the foundation building the memorial. The National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum is launching a Web site Thursday with its collection of citizen journalism of the tragedy and is appealing for more 9/11 stories from all over the world.
"They say that 9/11 was the most digitally documented event of all time," said Alice Greenwald, director of the planned museum. "We're asking people everywhere to help us tell the story."
The foundation planned to announce its "Make History" campaign later Thursday. Its Web site includes a collection of dramatic, chaotically shot footage of the attacks.
The site has photographs, video and audio recollections by professional photographers, fleeing trade center workers and witnesses who recorded what they saw with cell phone and digital cameras.
Each photo is juxtaposed against current Google "Street View" photos of various locations. Users can click on locations, themes or time of day to view the footage or images.
The graphic images of hijacked jetliners crashing into the towers are among the accounts that will become an exhibit in the 9/11 museum when it opens in three years.
One victim's family member said the images wouldn't keep him away, saying the story of Sept. 11 must be as realistic and complete as possible.
Charles Wolf was in his Greenwich Village apartment when he saw an American Airlines jetliner pass overhead, then crash into the trade center - and his wife's office.
"I and many family members don't want revisionist history, and we don't want this sanitized," Wolf said. "It is very important that people remember what happened that day: This was civilization, people merely at work, caught up in religious fanaticism."
The foundation has acquired 500 hours of video archives assembled by Camera Planet, a private team of filmmakers who collected professional and amateur videos from the day and its aftermath.
They include a five-minute video shot in the streets of lower Manhattan around the site on the evening of the attacks, with office stairwells filled with reams of paper and half-open offices with family pictures still inside.
A dust-covered Brooks Brothers logo is in one frame under shattered windows. What appears to be an airliner seat is strewn in the street. "God Bless America! Unity!" is scrawled in the dust of one window.
"Got that?" one videographer asks on the video showing the explosion of the second tower when it's hit by the jetliner.
"What kind of crazy person would .... kill themselves?" another asks as the camera points at the two towers.
Some of the submissions already are on display at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site, opened last month near ground zero as a temporary exhibit until the memorial and museum are completed.
There, visitors can see a film of the attacks, with a live Webcam showing the ongoing construction on the former World Trade Center's 16 acres.
The memorial is expected to open on the 10th anniversary of the attacks in 2011, and the museum a year later. The names of nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, as well as those from the 1993 trade center truck bombing, will be around two waterfall-filled pools.
The 100,000-square-foot museum will reach 70 feet underground, tracing the towers' original footprints. Photographs of thousands of terrorism victims will be flashed on a mammoth wall, with each remembered in movies, photos and narration.
"There are negatives lying in drawers around the world" that have never been seen, said Michael Shulan, the foundation's creative director. "We're inviting the world to really respond."
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