They stood in lines to give blood, handed out meals to people they didn’t know, wrote letters to strangers they would never meet.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, people around the country and the world searched for ways to help and show their support. A new exhibit chronicles some of those efforts, from weekly prayer services at ground zero to never-ending meals at an area restaurant-turned-respite center.
“Radical Hospitality” opened Tuesday at the New-York Historical Society and runs through July 11. The exhibit is part of “History Responds,” the institution’s program that collects historical materials relating to the 2001 attacks.
The exhibit uses photographs, signs, ID tags and all kinds of personal items, such as hats and letters, to document the unprecedented efforts people made to reach out after Sept. 11.
“If you can say something good came from the terrorist attacks, there was a renewed sense of community spirit and people coming together to support the difficult work of the recovery,” curator Amy Weinstein said. “The volunteers were there around the clock, the way the construction workers and police and firefighter and iron workers were at ground zero around the clock.”
Centered in one long hallway, the exhibit moves geographically, starting with the food and supply distribution centers put in place at the Hudson River piers. It moves on to signs and photographs of “Point Thank You,” at the corner of Christopher Street and the West Side Highway, where people held signs and cheered as rescue and recovery workers came in and out of the site.
Another part features artifacts from Nino’s, the now-closed restaurant just north of ground zero where thousands of free meals were served for months after the attack. Viewers then see photographs and materials from St. Paul’s Chapel, which survived the towers’ fall and became another relief center, where workers could go to get injuries treated and pick up something to eat.
The last section focuses on ground zero itself, where clergy came to lead prayers and onlookers came to leave messages at the viewing platforms set up around the site.
Lt. Mickey Kross of the New York City Fire Department, who spent months at the site, said he was moved by many of the letters he read, especially those from children.
“It was very inspiring,” he said. “It kept you going. It felt good.”