The 9/11 Memorials You Haven’t SeenSeptember 10, 2010 - 3:15 PM | by: Mike Levine
In the years since the 9/11 attacks, public memorials and tributes to the victims have popped up across the country. But there are also several memorials around the nation’s capital — tucked inside the offices of federal agencies leading the fight against terrorism — that the general public doesn’t get to see.
On the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Fox News was given access to many of the memorials, some erected inside buildings whose exact locations Fox News was asked not to disclose.
One of the more unique memorials sits inside the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Va, where exhibits from the trial of Al Qaeda associate Zacarias Moussaoui, including a model of the Twin Towers standing several feet high, fill an entire room. The 9/11 Victims’ Memorial, as it’s called, is just feet away from the elevators leading into the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“Every morning I walk past this room on my way into my office, and I visually see each day a reminder of the terrorist attacks of that day,” said Neil MacBride, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “I think it’s a reminder to all of us who work for the government, particularly who work for the Department of Justice, that we need to do everything we can to be as aggressive … as we can to detect terrorist threats before they occur and to make sure punishment is brought where appropriate on terrorists who would do us harm.”
MacBride, who described walking past the memorial each day as a “very sobering way to start work,” said he always looks first at a poster used during the 2006 trial of Moussaoui, who is now in prison for life and has been described by some outside the Justice Department as a possible “20th hijacker.” The poster shows the faces of about 95 percent of those who died on 9/11, and MacBride said that while prosecutors often use photos of victims during trial, “to see row after row, layer after layer, of about 2,800 Americans and citizens of other countries who died almost simultaneously is just very, very powerful.”
The memorial in MacBride’s office also includes pictures drawn by victims’ children, including one drawing that shows two towers holding hands and crying as a plane flies into one tower. Those drawings face the model of the Twin Towers.
“The destruction of the towers was such a tangible, physical sign of the attack and the strike on … this country’s nerve center,” said MacBride, who worked inside one of the towers more than 20 years ago. “You see the towers, and you’re reminded how they stood there, what prominence they stood for so many years, and now they’re gone forever.”
In Herndon, Va., staffers of the Transportation Security Administration’s operations center walk past their own memorial each morning. A girder from the 77th floor of the World Trade Center, burnt rubble from the Pentagon, and a piece of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania, sit in the lobby of The Freedom Center, a secretive building that looks more like a car dealership than the nerve center of the nation’s air security.
“The first thing [the memorial] makes us think about is the need to be vigilant, the trust that the public has placed in the TSA to secure the skies, and the importance and consequences of that trust,” said TSA official Robert Tatum, who helps oversee operations to secure the skies over Washington.
Tatum, a former United Airlines pilot himself, added that the memorial is a boost to the “patriots” who work for TSA.
“They needed something that was an additional motivation,” he said, “and certainly this type of memorial is what reminds people [of TSA's mission] through the day-to-day treachery of working long shifts and working through the holidays.”
Just miles away from the TSA’s office in Herndon is the home of the National Counterterrorism Center, or NCTC, and a 9/11 memorial now sits in its lobby, “front and center so everybody sees it every morning that they walk in,” as NCTC Director Michael Leiter put it.
The memorial, unveiled last year on the fifth anniversary of NCTC’s establishment, features a piece from the World Trade Center, rubble from the Pentagon and a damaged American flag that was recovered from Ground Zero.
“When I see this memorial [I think] ‘This is why we’re here’ … to stop something like this happening every day,” Leiter said.
According to Leiter, he always says this to new employees: “The day that you walk into this building, and you don’t look at that [memorial] and say, ‘I’m going to go commit myself today and every day thereafter in this battle,’ then it’s time for you to find another line of work.”
He said that the flag in the memorial is “torn and tattered, but it’s still there.” So, he said, “we have to remember the people who died under rubble like that,” pointing to the memorial.
However, he said he hopes the memorial isn’t there “forever.”
“I hope that one day we can close this building up,” he said. “The goal of this center is to put ourselves out of business by keeping us safer and ultimately defeating the scorge of Islamic terrorism.”