You are the sunshine of my life,” sang Joseph Holland to his wife’s pregnant belly. “That’s why I’ll always be around.” When young Joseph entered the world, Holland took a week off from work as a broker to stay home with his new family.
When he returned to work Monday, September 10, Holland handed out cigars at the New York Mercantile Exchange. Ten days after his son was born, Holland, 32, who worked on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center, was killed in the attack.
The New Jersey State Museum will tell his story, among others, in “Remembering 9/11,” a year-long exhibition opening Thursday, September 8.
Holland, a resident of Glen Rock, NJ, resident had been very interested in safety for his son, and bought a Mercedes, believing it to be the safest car. His Mercedes was recovered and returned to his family by a property clerk. Because he was so proud of that car, his family thought it would be an important object to tell his story.
“These are the stories we have to pass from generation to generation,” says Anthony Gardner, the museum’s executive director since February (“From Ground Zero to the State Museum,” April 20, U.S. 1), who lost his brother, Harvey, to the terrorist attacks. Since that day, Gardner has dedicated himself to helping the survivors.
“New Jersey was second to New York in impact,” says Gardner from his office in the museum, overlooking the Delaware River. Not only did nearly 700 New Jerseyans lose their lives, but many survivors evacuated on ferry boats to the Garden State, and New Jersey hospitals mobilized to care for the injured.
“New Jersey citizens volunteered for the rescue and recovery,” says Gardner. The exhibit will tell the story through artifacts conveying the human dimensions and enormity of the attacks, complete with oral histories from 9/11 families, survivors, rescue workers, and volunteers. Personal objects that belonged to victims, in the collection of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, scheduled to open in New York City in September, 2012, will be on loan for this exhibit.
“It’s a great opportunity to collaborate and give access to their collection before they open,” says Gardner, who co-led the successful campaign to preserve the footprints of the Twin Towers and serves as a member of the National September 11 Memorial Museum’s Advisory Committee. “We’ll be able to borrow objects that speak to individuals and the loss of life, giving a face to victims and a sense of story.”
Gardner plans to build a 9/11 collection for the State Museum, accessioning objects from the New York Port Authority’s World Trade Center artifacts stored in a hangar at JFK Airport, such as steel from the North and South towers where the planes hit.
Holland’s Mercedes “conveys a sense of tragedy that so many people, so young, just starting their lives, were all changed,” says Gardner. “We also have a section of steel beam where the plane penetrated the 92nd floor.”
Gardner’s brother, Harvey, 35, was on the 83rd floor. “He packed his gym bag and set off for the day, a regular routine day,” says Gardner. “He and his coworkers were trapped in the core when the elevator blew up and compromised their exit.
“I’m now the age Harvey was when he was killed,” says Gardner. “It conveys the passage of time. It’s weird for Mark (Gardner’s surviving brother), too.”
Anthony was a young boy when their father left the family. Harvey took over the reins as patriarch and went to work to help their single mother pay the bills. Harvey went to community college, worked in sales, and then went back to school for IT training three years before 9/11.
“He was smart and tech savvy, and found himself in his IT job at the World Trade Center,” says Gardner.
Harvey helped Anthony purchase his first car, offering to match whatever Anthony could raise — a lot of money for another young fellow also starting out in life.
Gardner, 25 in 2001, had worked for Morgan Stanley in financial communications at 2 World Trade Center but had been laid off in April of that year, an experience for which, in hindsight, he is grateful. He then took a job for Grey Advertising, at Third Avenue and 48th Street, and was on his way to work, listening to the radio, when the first plane hit. In a storefront he saw TV sets that told him what happened, and he could see smoke in the air when he looked downtown.
At work, everyone gathered around the TV in the conference room to follow the story. He tried calling Harvey, but was only able to reach their middle brother, Mark. Mark had talked to Harvey and heard his coworkers panicking, Harvey trying to calm them. That was the last they heard from him. His tower collapsed at 10:29 a.m.
Anthony’s boss gave him $20 to get home. He observed a mass of people walking north. He walked west to the ferry terminal and waited three hours for the ferry, then took a shuttle bus to the train to his home in Bloomfield. He remembers seeing survivors, covered in dust. “I was still hopeful. I said my brother was in there, trying to get out. I was hoping to hear from him for five days.”
Gardner went back to the city two days later with a toothbrush that held his brother’s DNA. “I was taken in on a military Humvee through the Lincoln Tunnel. The city was militarized.”
He went from hospital to hospital, then phoned more hospitals at night. “After a week I realized he wasn’t coming back. I made missing posters, went on TV. None of his coworkers were found.”
“Harvey was very patriotic, interested in American history, and I took comfort in knowing he became part of American history and will always be honored,” says Gardner.
He started a website to connect families and formed a nonprofit to become a 9/11 advocate, the Coalition of September 11th Families.
“In the beginning it was about information and recovery. It was important to bring people together and create resources to meet the needs,” says Gardner, who secured a grant and started the September 11th Educational Trust.
“The families struggled to have a voice in the memorial process. We were saying the site was sacred ground. We got push-back at the time from those who wanted to restore it as office space. That day, the site became sacred in our history. There are 20,000 remains on the bedrock. When the fill was cleared off, the argument was changed from spiritual to historic preservation.”
For families who never received remains of their loved ones, the footprints, or bedrock, is all they have. (The term “bedrock,” as used here, refers to the concrete slab and not true Manhattan schist.)
“For me, it was very important to preserve something tangible,” says Gardner. “A memorial is more abstract. We wanted to highlight the story through artifacts.”
The 9/11 Memorial Museum will have exhibits in the footprints. “This is what I am most proud of,” says Gardner.
Gardner, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University, went back to school for a certificate in nonprofit management at Seton Hall, then earned a master’s degree in museum studies at Seton Hall and a master’s in public administration from the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration.
Museum exhibits are usually planned three years in advance, but Gardner joined the State Museum in February and he hit the ground running. It’s not his plan to be a one-show director. In addition to building the 9/11 collection, his long-term plans include opening the natural history hall that has been closed for renovation since 2004, and creating a National History Highlights exhibit to give the public access to the museum’s holdings.
He also hopes to reopen the archaeology hall, where construction is slated to begin soon, and to renovate the ethnographic exhibit.
Back when the museum had been fully open, 300,000 attended annually. In recent years attendance has dropped to 100,000, but Gardner believes the 9/11 artifacts will bring New Jerseyans to the state capital.
In order to do any of this, he will need money, and so he is beginning a fundraising campaign, starting with a gala reception Wednesday, September 7, for the opening of “Remembering 9/11.”
“There is a lot of excitement and optimism that we’re moving forward,” says Gardner. “This is a phenomenal resource for New Jersey, with world-renowned specimens. We have the largest planetarium in the state, admission is free, and here’s something for everyone — natural history, science, and fine art.”
From the natural history department, “Remembering 9/11” will include Manhattan schist, telling the story of that island before the building of the Twin Towers. There will be a slide show of artists’ memorials, a section of the North Tower’s impact zone, a table and chairs from the Commuter Cafe, a scroll of New Jersey victims, and a place for visitors to share reflections.
There will be photographs by Donald Lokuta, a Union resident and fine arts professor at Kean, where he teaches digital photography, showing the building of the World Trade Center from the New Jersey side in the early 1970s, as well as images he made in the aftermath of 9/11.
In his artist’s statement Lokuta writes: “After hearing about the events of September 11th and watching the drama unfold on television, I was numb for two days. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
“I wished I were a construction worker or a steel worker — at least I could help. I could volunteer and be useful. But I’m a photographer, not evena photojournalist — an artist. No one needed an artist at ‘ground zero.’”
But Lokuta did go into Manhattan on the third day of the disaster, and instead of venturing downtown he chose to go to the National Guard Armory on Lexington Avenue, where relatives and friends came to fill out the reports and bring photographs and medical information about their missing loved ones.
“I found myself with the news reporters and video crews from around the wrold. I spoke to the people looking for their missing relatives, and I listened to their stories. And I made photographs of them with the pictures and flyers when I had the strength to ask.
“This is not the kind of photography that I was familiar with. I found it extremely difficult. I left the city emotionally exhausted each day.
“The buildings were never on my mind — it was the people — the tragic loss of humanity and the countless family, friends, and loved ones who were left with unimaginable grief. That’s where the photographs were for me. Like most Americans, I never expected it to be part of ‘my’ life.
“So the photographs that I made are a personal reaction to what I saw. They are not about any one dramatic newsworthy moment. They are a quiet emotional reaction. They are about what I felt. These photographs are about the eternal human struggle to deal with staggering loss and personal grief.”
“Remembering 9/11,” opening Thursday, September 8, the New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton. An exhibit revolving around New Jersey’s reflections and responses to 9/11, which includes artifacts conveying the human dimensions and enormity of the attacks complete with oral histories from 9/11 families, survivors, rescue workers, and volunteers. On view through September 30, 2012. Museum hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. A gala fundraiser will be held Wednesday, September 7: tickets cost $150 to $50,000. 609-292-6464 or www.newjerseystatemuseum.org.