London's new 9/11 exhibitions mark 20th anniversary

US Embassy and Imperial War Museum put photos and artefacts on display

Two exhibitions have opened in London to mark the 9/11 anniversary, recalling an outpouring of solidarity with America in the aftermath of the attacks.

A display at the US Embassy in London includes artefacts from the time such as a firefighter’s jacket and American flags inscribed with messages of support.

The Imperial War Museum opened a separate exhibition with photos taken at Ground Zero, the wreckage of the World Trade Centre in New York.

A total of 67 British citizens were killed in the 9/11 attacks, after which many people in London left flowers at what was then the site of the embassy.

Britain held a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral three days after the attacks, while guards played The Star-Spangled Banner outside Buckingham Palace.

The items displayed at the relocated embassy include messages of solidarity written on a postcard, a basketball and an American baseball cap.

One handwritten message from a primary school pupil said: “It could happen anywhere and I hope that it will not happen again.”

Another mourner wrote on a British flag: “We will never forget … my thoughts are with everyone in the world who has been affected by this tragedy.”

A firefighter’s jacket at the exhibition was previously on display at the crash site of Flight 93 – the fourth plane which came down in a field in Pennsylvania.

Diplomats were invited to the launch of the exhibition on Thursday. It will run until the end of the year.

“The closer we get to September 11, 2021, we realise: Twenty years have passed now but our memory does not fade,” said one of the visitors, German Ambassador to Britain Andreas Michaelis.

The Imperial War Museum exhibition opened on Friday, displaying images taken by German filmmaker Wim Wenders after the attacks.

They show emergency services working in the mangled wreckage of the World Trade Centre after both towers collapsed.

The last survivor was rescued 27 hours after the collapse. A total of 2,977 people were killed in the attacks, not including the 19 terrorists.

“My panoramic camera captured this amazing message: ‘Something terrible, altogether infernal, has happened here’,” Mr Wenders said.

“But please, let this not become a ground for more hate, let the lives that were taken here not become the reason for more bloodshed.”

The museum’s wider collection includes sections of steelwork from the destroyed towers and artefacts from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The exhibition was partly funded by the US embassy. Museum staff are collecting personal stories of 9/11 and appealing to people to come forward.

“All of us have seen and experienced the aftershocks of 9/11 in one way or another,” said Louise Skidmore, the museum’s head of contemporary conflict.

“We want to start a global conversation about how the events of 9/11 have come to reshape the world we live in by encouraging people to share their memories and stories.”

There is a permanent 9/11 memorial in London’s Grosvenor Square, the site of the US embassy until it moved to Nine Elms in 2018.

A group called the September 11 UK Families Support Group plans to hold a remembrance service on the day of the anniversary.

The anniversary has been overshadowed by the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, 20 years after the attacks that led to the war.

Speaking before the anniversary, the head of Britain’s MI5 intelligence service said the Taliban victory had emboldened extremists elsewhere.

Analysts who spoke to The National issued a warning that a revived Al Qaeda threat meant the US might have to return to Afghanistan.

Updated: September 10th 2021, 4:00 PM
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