“The first time I saw it, I felt a physical jolt.”
This post is part of a series on September 11. The George W. Bush Library holds many documents related to the events of September 11. In this series, our staff share some of their memories of the day and their thoughts on the records that are part of their holdings.
I started the morning of September 11, 2001, as a senior at Texas A&M University shuffling around my apartment in College Station getting ready for my first class. By the end of the day and for the rest of the day and all that week I was glued to the television.
Some of that week is a blur now. What I remember most about that time was the emotion. There was fear and anger, but mostly I remember the sadness and then the hope. Everyone was grieving, but we were grieving as a community, not as individuals.
I graduated a year later with a degree in history and went on to become a museum professional. Now, ten years after that awful day, I am a museum technician at the George W. Bush Presidential Library. We have tens of thousands of artifacts in our collection, including many items related to 9/11.
One of our most recognizable artifacts is the bullhorn President Bush used to speak to the rescue workers when he visited Ground Zero on September 14.
I work with artifacts for a living. I believe in the power of an object to tell a story and evoke emotion in the viewer, but I was taken aback at the power of this ordinary, dirt streaked megaphone. The first time I saw it, I felt a physical jolt. I teared up and felt emotion welling in my chest. In an instant I was taken back to that day, week, month, and year.
I remembered the fear of the attack and the uncertainty of more to come. I remembered the sadness at the loss of so much human life, but mostly I remembered the unity we shared for a brief time. Working with historical artifacts like the bullhorn reminds me that when we need to, we can come together as one united nation.
I am proud to be a custodian of objects made sacred in our country’s collective memory. As a National Archives staff member, I look forward to sharing their power and presence with the people who visit the future Bush Presidential Library.
Christina Rodriguez is a museum technician at the George W. Bush Presidential Library. She has also worked in the museum and audiovisual archives of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.