Artifacts pulled from the rubble of 9/11 become symbols of what was lost

Items left by victims of the attacks and those who tried to help them tell stories of bravery, loss, and perseverance.

Long Island resident Joe Hunter earned a business degree from Hofstra University, but he’d known since childhood that firefighting was what he really wanted to do. A television news video from the morning of 9/11 shows Hunter and other FDNY Squad 288 members, sober-faced and laden with gear, heading to the World Trade Center’s south tower to join the evacuation effort. When the tower collapsed, Hunter and his squad mates perished. Hunter’s helmet was found in the wreckage several months later.
Courtesy Bridget Hunter and Family

What forces can sanctify an object, giving it meaning beyond itself? Selflessness. Courage. Endurance in the face of the unspeakable. The forces that Joe Hunter and hundreds of other people summoned on September 11, 2001.

Joe Hunter’s dreams rode on fire engines. At age four, he’d pedal his Big Wheel to the corner as the red trucks passed. At 11, he’d run fire rescue drills with a ladder and a garden hose, and if his pals didn’t take it seriously, he sent them home: “OK, you—out!” 

He started as a volunteer fireman, graduated from the New York City Fire Department academy, took rescue training for terrorist attacks and building collapses. When his mother, Bridget, worried, he’d tell her, “If anything ever happens, just know I loved the job.” 

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