Sept. 11 Photo Exhibit 'Quite a Reminder,' Visitor Says
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 20, 2002 Beverley Bradley-Topping ambled from display to display down the long, curved exhibit gallery of the Women's Memorial as she slowly viewed the more than 3,500 pictures in the September 11 Photo Project.
Calling the huge display "quite a reminder," she said, "It causes each of us to reflect on the freedoms we have, the cost to defend freedom and the sacrifice that was made, and the devastation and loss of lives and property.
"It shows something that just can't be recovered," said Bradley-Topping, a human resources manager at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Md.
She said, personally, the terrorist attacks on America only cost her time she would have spent with her husband. She was in her office in Suitland, and her husband, Lt. Michael Topping Sr., was aboard the USS Enterprise en route home on Sept. 11, 2001. The aircraft carrier group was ordered to turn around and its aircraft were among the first to fly strikes on al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Lt. Topping is now the administrative officer in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Resources, Requirements and Assessments at the Pentagon.
Bradley-Topping's March 14 visit to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial coincided with the DoD Women's History Month observance there hosted by David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
"The New York City photography exhibit opened here March 1, 2002, on the first stop of its national tour," Chu noted. "The exhibit is composed of over 3,500 photographs taken before, during and after the events of September 11. The design of the project is not simply photography or art show, but an exhibit to communicate people's stories and experience. As such, it can be an important contribution in the healing process for our nation."
The project is an open forum for photographs and words that began as a grassroots effort in the weeks following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The goal has been to collect material from all members of the community who wished to participate, according to project spokesperson Dena Trakes.
In three months the exhibition was on display in New York's SoHo gallery near "Ground Zero," the project grew from about 200 photos and written notes to more than 4,000. Before the gallery closed its doors, more than 40,000 people came to show their photos, share their stories, or to look at the photos and read the thoughts of others, Trakes said.
After the exhibit closes here April 7, it packs up and moves to Sacramento, Calif., April 26 to June 2, and the Pasadena Armory in Southern California June 28 to Aug. 3. Exhibits are under consideration for Phoenix, Houston, Chicago and Boston. Trakes said whether the nationwide tour continues depends on the sale of the 206-page book "The September 11 Photo Project."
The exhibit captures the attention of all age groups. The photographs awed Alena Watts and Noel Cawthorne, 11-year- old sixth-graders in Washington. They were in their homeroom class when they saw the terrorist-hijacked airliners slam into the World Trade Center.
"I was scared," exclaimed Watts, who added that the photographs of the tragedy are "sad."
"We saw both of the planes going into the World Trade Center buildings and some people were scared because they thought a plane was going to crash into the school," Cawthorne said. "We had to go to the cafeteria. Some kids were crying and they told our parents to come and get us."
Most of the photographs and words in the exhibit come from reactions to the destruction of the World Trade Center, but pictures and words about the attack on the Pentagon are welcome.
Materials may be submitted to the project at the Women's Memorial seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. They also can be mailed to The September 11 Photo Project, c/o Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation Inc., 5510 Columbia Pike, Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22204. The telephone number of the memorial is (703) 892-2606.