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The tragic events of September 11 happened just over a decade ago, but the country hasn’t forgotten. Among the many ways Chicago is commemorating the anniversary is with the riveting Ground Zero 360° exhibit, on view at The Field Museum through January 2.
Irish photojournalist Nicola McClean, and Paul McCormack, former commanding officer of the 41st precinct of the New York City Police Department, put the show together to honor the heroism of the first responders. Therefore, many of the images feature police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, and others who dropped everything to help save lives in New York. You see them in masks, standing by rubble, and covered with dust.
A wall of photographs taken by McClean shows screen shots of television reports talking about the attacks on the Twin Towers, crushed vehicles, abandoned shoes and strollers, a pile of rubble, and messages scrawled in dust. The photographs are all previously unpublished and cover a period from the day of the attacks to several months after. The centerpiece is a 360° photograph, taken on September 21, 2001, which details the cleanup effort. The collapsed towers are at the center, with emergency workers coordinating the effort to help out fanning out from the middle.
The exhibit doesn’t just feature images – in cases throughout the room you’ll see a piece of granite and a steel beam from the towers, crosses created from World Trade Center steel, and personal objects donated to the exhibit by the families of police officer Brian McDonnell and fire lieutenant Paul Mitchell, both of whom lost their lives in the attacks. Another wall is plastered with reproductions of missing-persons flyers, and there is an audio recording of police radio calls placed on September 11 that plays on a 60-minute loop. Once you’ve taken in the exhibit, an interactive component lets you share memories. It asks you to answer questions like whether your definition of a hero changed after September 11, and what scared you most about the attacks.
The show is set in a space right outside the 19th century Maori meetinghouse from New Zealand on display. The Maori believed that the area in front of the house was a sacred place for people to meet. Ground Zero 360° has this same feeling of sacredness, and is an important reminder of what we lost that day.
For more information, visit fieldmuseum.org.