Gov. Cox, local leaders gather to kick off Weber County 9/11 exhibit
OGDEN — Nearly 20 years ago, the twin towers in New York City fell, downed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the country wept and came together.
Ryan Arbon, the Weber County sheriff, was a marshal for the state of Missouri at the time and recalls he was helping with security at a trial. “Everything was canceled because of the nervousness,” he said. Court employees and would-be jurors were sent home.
Hector Soto, now living in West Haven but then of New York City, helped with cleanup in the aftermath of the attacks. “We went down the very next day. I was part of recovery and cleanup. I went in the subway,” he said.
Many more weren’t yet born as of Sept. 11, 2001, though, and on Wednesday, Arbon, Soto, Gov. Spencer Cox and an array of other leaders gathered to kick off an exhibit here meant to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragedy, Weber Remembers: The 9/11 Project. It’s set up at the Weber County Fairgrounds complex in Ogden, opened to the public on Thursday and will be in operation through Saturday, Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks.
Participants will “leave with your jaw on the floor and a tissue in your hand,” said Jennie Taylor, who helped spearhead efforts to bring the exhibit together.
Those who were not yet born or were very young at the time are among the target audiences for the elaborate series of displays, centered in Recreation Hall at the fairgrounds. “Helping them remember is critical,” Cox said.
Being so far from New York City — site of the most dramatic of the 9/11 attacks, the downing of the World Trade Center towers — the exhibit also gives Utahns a chance to more closely experience what happened. “It brings the World Trade Center and ground zero to them,” the governor said.
Taylor hopes it also inspires the public to get involved, to volunteer, to take an active role in their communities.
“I’ve got three words — remember, experience, commit,” she said. That is, Taylor hopes the exhibit helps people remember what happened, lets those less familiar with 9/11 experience what it was all about and spurs the public to commit to some sort of public service initiative.
Those on hand — local elected officials, firefighters, police officers and more — got an early look at the exhibits. Through photos, video and audio, the displays in Recreation Hall offer a historic look at the times and walk participants through the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the immediate aftermath.
Representatives from fire departments, law enforcement agencies and other first responders will have booths in Exhibition Hall next door while military and other vehicles will be on display in a parking lot outside.
Around 3,500 kids will be attending as part of field trips and Taylor expects as many as 6,000 visitors in all, maybe more.
“It’s a great tribute to our community, our first responders,” said Ogden Police Chief Eric Young, on hand Wednesday.
Many noted the sense of unity among Americans in the days after 9/11 and expressed hope of recapturing that spirit.
“For a time, we were Americans. We weren’t Democrats, we weren’t Republicans,” Cox said. “We were just Americans.”
Cox noted that the “evil” behind the 9/11 attacks is still out there, underscoring the import of Americans coming together to combat it. “What are we going to do to become better Americans? What are we going to do to become better neighbors?” he said.
The exhibits at the fairgrounds are open to the general public from 4-8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. More details are at majorbrenttaylor.com/itinerary.