Catawba County is more than 600 miles from New York City.
Sandy Cooke, Sherrills Ford Library branch manager, wanted to close that gap and bring the events of Sept. 11 closer to home.
“It affects us all,” Cooke said of the attacks. “We all have a personal stake in this. We’re human.”
For the last eight years, Cooke created a Sept. 11 display in the Sherrills Ford Library, complete with books, memorabilia, photographs and newspapers about what many people say changed the course of American history.
“I laid everything out so people can just touch and feel,” she said.
Cooke joined The September Project, a grassroots movement in libraries across the country to encourage events about freedom during September, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“The display isn’t focused on the evil in the world,” Cooke said. “It’s more that we’ve all suffered a tragedy, and everyone has come together.”
The display also includes newspapers from across the nation, including the New York Times, detailing the events immediately following Sept. 11.
“The images are very vivid,” she said. “They’re very moving.”
Over the years, Cooke’s display changed and evolved as her collection of images and mementos grew.
“It’s never the same thing,” she said. “Every year, there’s something different.”
This year, Cooke added some firefighter rescue equipment to the display, including a karabiner often used in search and rescue missions.
“(Library) visitors are amazed and appreciative when they see the display,” Cooke said. “That’s what I created it for.”
Library patron Pat Happel, of Sherrills Ford, hadn’t seen the 9/11 display at the Sherrills Ford branch, but she didn’t need to see pictures to know what it was like on Sept. 11 in New York City.
Happel worked for the Long Island railroad before moving to Catawba County seven years ago. She received a call at work on Sept. 11 that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center, and she climbed onto the roof of her office building to watch the towers burn.
“It was terrible,” she said, closing her eyes and shuddering.
Although the memories are still fresh in Happel’s mind, some Americans, she fears, are forgetting.
“Americans tend to forget very easily,” she said.
Ceremonies, memorial services and displays, like the exhibit at Sherrills Ford Library, keep Sept. 11 on the forefront of people’s minds.
“It helps remind people of what happened,” Happel said. “Some people just need to be reminded.”
The Sherrills Ford Library 9/11 exhibit will be on display throughout the month of September.