The Scottsdale Fire Department is providing a special way for residents to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with a somber pop-up museum at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
The museum, open until Sunday, Sept. 12, features photos of victims affixed to props that resemble the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a wing of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania 20 years ago this Saturday.
This is the first time in five years the department is displaying the memorial.
“We thought, ‘How could we create this display that meets their needs and honors the situation here in Scottsdale?’” department spokeswoman Lori Schmidt explained.
Having been involved in the pop-up museum since it was first created in 2009, Schmidt is always reminded of watching the horror unfold on television in her family’s home.
“I was visiting family back home in Kansas when we got a call from one of our cousins, who asked if we were watching the news,” Schmidt said. “That whole day, we were glued to the television in shock. I remember watching the second tower being struck and I was wondering if I was watching a movie and how this could possibly be happening.”
Even though 20 years have passed since that dark day, Schmidt feels it is important to keep alive the spirit of those who risked their lives to save those trapped inside the burning buildings or lost their lives inside the planes.
“These are people who had a life and had a job, and some were never found,” she said. “If you allow yourself to really look at this, you’ll find that this is someone that you could have been friends with.”
The museum includes replica of the World Trade Center designed with metal poles and opaque plastic, a pentagon made from wood and metal and an actual plane wing with a light on it to recognize those who lost their lives on Flight 93.
While those are the main exhibits of the museum, the more eye-catching exhibits include a piece of steel from the rubble and a two-story flag called the “National Unity Flag.”
“We are very fortunate to have this flag be part of our display,” Schmidt said. “It is pretty awesome to see this flag that is as tall as the atrium when you walk in.”
Another difference between this year’s museum and the 2016 exhibit is that Harley Davidson will display custom motorcycles that represent each branch of the U.S. Military leading up to the piece of steel.
The Fire Department is also asking people to donate memorial wreaths that will be put on display on Friday.
“Some people have already donated because their company wanted to donate it in honor of 9/11 or had a connection to someone who died that day,” Schmidt said.
On Saturday 11, there will be a larger event held inside the Scottsdale Center For The Performing Arts.
The event will begin at 1 p.m. where the names of those lost on September 11, 2001, will be read aloud, followed by a ceremony inside the Virginia G. Piper Theater led by Mayor David Ortega and a procession by the Scottsdale Fire Department Honor Guard.
Battery-powered candles will also be presented at this event and a 15-minute video created by Schmidt will be shown as well.
“The big thing that we have to remember about 9/11 is that it is a national day of service,” Schmidt said. “Something that is so important about this tragedy is that we want something good to come out of it.”
In the prior presentations of the memorial exhibit, Schmidt said she has received nothing but positive feedback from museumgoers and survivors of that day.
“I have regular contact with the FDNY retirees and one of the guys who is with that has told me over and over again that this is such an outstanding recognition and means a lot to him,” she said, adding:
“That is so special to me that we have made those folks – who were there on the line, there in the pile and there putting their heart and soul into saving lives –pleased with what we are doing with our pop-up museum.”
Schmidt still gets the chills every time she hears stories of those who ran toward danger on that day.
“It’s also amazing to hear the stories of the emergency responders who stayed back as people ran away from those buildings,” she said. “When I think of those folks who ran towards danger, it gives me goosebumps.”
While first responders are often the ones remembered for their work done that day, Schmidt also wanted to give a nod to those who rummaged through the rubble for months after the attacks looking for remnants of those who were in the wreckage.
“We also have to remember that there were people going through what they called ‘The Pile,’ trying to find remains of people or anything that their families would be able to hang on to,” she said.