9/11 Imagery and artifacts on display in Winter Garden
Friday, September 10, 2021
Walk into Remembrance 9/11 Tribute ensconced in the Winter Garden City Hall Commission Chambers through Saturday, and you can’t miss Norman Rein. And you seriously don’t want to.
Lanky with an affable smile, a low, warm laugh and iron-gray hair that belies his 82 years, Rein hails from Patchogue, New York, where he was a homicide detective for the Suffolk County Police Department, working the kinds of cases that occasionally landed him mentions on TV and in New York magazine. As a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, he was among the investigators helping to determine why, in 1996, TWA Flight 800 exploded, then crashed into the Atlantic just 12 minutes after taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. After he retired from police work, Rein, who’d long been a volunteer firefighter, was elected Long Island’s fire commissioner. And that’s how he was able to stage 250 fire trucks at Shea Stadium in Queens to aid in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center on the day that al-Qaida terrorists hijacked two passenger jets out of Boston Logan International Airport and flew them into the Twin Towers.
“I was at Ground Zero for four or five days,” Rein recalls. “Then I was at the morgue for another month, doing what you do.”
It wasn’t until after Rein moved to Winter Garden in 2005 with his family that he felt the urge to document the event. Like so many New Yorkers, his wife had saved stacks of the original newspapers and magazines that reported the terrorist attacks and their horrifying aftermath. Rein began sifting through them. He searched Google for images. He contacted publishers to request publications he didn’t have. He ended up with tables and tables filled with publications, easily a thousand, he says.
“I made one [display]. Then I made two. And then on and on and on,” he says. “I’m a patriot. I wanted to share this, and I wanted to keep that memory alive.”
This is Rein’s passion project, five years in the making. He says it’s a “calling.”
“I lived through the aftermath,” Rein says “I saw how hideously the human form was treated, completely decimated, obliterated. When we were looking for bodies, you might find a body part; there were body parts all over the place. That memory’s embedded on me.”
The exhibit includes displays of iconic images of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93, the plane that hijackers brought down in a field in Shanksville, Pa. after passengers and crew fought back. The exhibit is largely laid out chronologically with a separate section dedicated to those who joined the military as a result of 9/11 and to first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty. Rein is working to establish a nonprofit to honor first responders, called First.
The exhibit also includes artifacts pulled from Ground Zero, on loan from fellow Winter Garden residents, like Peter Yachmetz, who was part of the FBI task force that identified the 9/11 hijackers, and Jimmy Brown, the first responder who found himself buried to his shoulders in debris when the North Tower fell. (Brown is the keynoter for Ocoee’s 9/11 Tribute on Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Withers-Maguire House, 16 E. Oakland Ave.)
As visitors wander the exhibit, Rein encourages them to look through the binders and magazines on the tables that accompany each of the displays and to leave messages in the basket on the last table before they leave.
Remembrance 9/11 Tribute
Winter Garden City Hall Commission Chambers
300 Plant Street
Open Friday until 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.