- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 23, 2003

Close to 60,000 Red Cross staff members and volunteers helped in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That is tens of thousands of people providing food, water, bandages, even a hand to hold during some of our nation’s darkest days.

The efforts of the Red Cross workers and volunteers are paid tribute in an exhibit at the Red Cross Visitors Center in the District. “Images of Hope: The American Red Cross Responds to September 11, 2001,” captures through photos and artifacts what it was like to be at Ground Zero and the Pentagon nearly two years ago. The display opened on September 11, 2002, and will run at least through the fall, says Tom Goehner, the Red Cross’ director of museum education.

“We wanted to focus not so much on the tragedy of the attack,” Mr. Goehner says. “We want to focus on the work people did and how they came together afterward at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.”

Most of the story is told through photos. There are photojournalism-style action shots taken from the various locations as well as portraits of public safety personnel and regular folks who rose to the occasion on that terrible day.

Also on display is a hat and safety vest worn by Rudolph W. Giuliani, then-mayor of New York.

Schoolchildren thanked many of the public safety personnel through handmade cards and pictures. Several Arlington fire stations — which were instrumental in the Pentagon rescue and recovery — donated their thank-you cards to the collection of 100,000 colorful notes housed at the visitors center.

Many of the notes are displayed. Others are filed in a pentagon-shaped box.

“There are about 1,000 letters of support to view,” Mr. Goehner says.

The rest of the visitors center contains displays explaining the role of the American Red Cross through the years. The American Red Cross — part of the International Red Cross movement that began in the late 1800s — helps communities in times of war and disaster, trains people in lifesaving skills, provides public health services and collects and provides nearly half the nation’s blood supply.

The story of the American Red Cross is told through some of its items. Visitors can see World War II-era food rations for the Allied troops, a flag that flew at Pearl Harbor and a coffee canteen that helped fortify troops during World War I.

The role of women is also a big theme. Personal items of Clara Barton, the first American Red Cross president, are displayed at the visitors center. An entire room is dedicated to the Red Cross nurses, with various uniform items — including the trademark World War I nursing cape — on display.

Sweaters knitted by Red Cross nurses and volunteers during wartime also are here, along with posters recruiting for the knitting corps. Modern-day knitting enthusiasts can take home instructions from the era to reproduce their own World War I or II sweater.

Another room honors the blood-collection services of the American Red Cross. A film plays describing blood and tissue donation and its vital contribution, particularly after a disaster. A 1944 field transfusion kit is on display, as well as a 1949 poster explaining how blood is medicine.

Recruiting people to donate blood has long been a goal of the American Red Cross. That is evidenced by World War II-era posters urging people to be patriotic and donate blood. About 4.2 million volunteers donated blood in 2001, says a display at the visitors center. However, only about 5 percent of the eligible population in the United States donates blood.

While some of the artifacts at the visitors center may seem like relics from another era, the American Red Cross’ mission is still current, Mr. Goehner says. With terrorism and war very much a reality, the services the organization performs are much needed.

“We are the primary [aid] group in a disaster,” Mr. Goehner says. “It is more important than ever that we spend time trying to explain what we do and don’t do.”

WHEN YOU GO

LOCATION: THE AMERICAN RED CROSS VISITORS CENTER IS AT RED CROSS NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS, 1730 E ST. NW, WASHINGTON.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission: Free

Parking: Some metered street parking is available. The nearest Metro stops are Farragut West (Blue and Orange lines) and Farragut North (Red Line).

Note: Guided tours are available at 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays. There is a small gift shop in the visitors center.

More information: 202/639-3300 or www.redcross.org/museum.

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