September 11th: The Church Street Station Post Office
On September 11, 2001, the United States suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history, and Postal Inspectors were on the front lines.
Following the horrific attacks, postal inspectors from the New York, Washington, and Pittsburgh Divisions were among some of the first law enforcement personnel on the scene at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the Stoystown, PA, crash site to assist with aiding survivors and securing the mail. Inspectors from the New York Division suffered immensely, as many of them had offices in the Church Street Station Post Office near the World Trade Center.
Debris from the World Trade Center and remnants of the hijacked planes fell directly on the Post Office, creating substantial damage. As the towers fell, the Church Street Station Post Office was soon engulfed in debris and dust. Thanks to a quick-thinking supervisor, the building was ordered to be evacuated before the collapse of the World Trade Center, saving countless lives.
Postal inspectors and Postal Police officers quickly mobilized to help evacuate civilians and police injured by falling glass and debris. Some survivors were even evacuated to shelters using postal trucks. Immediately following the attacks, postal inspectors, with help from the National Guard, mobilized to secure mail from the Church Street Station.
Continuing a line of communication via mail was crucial, and keeping the mail safe and moving through Manhattan was a major priority. A temporary system was established for New Yorkers to receive their mail, despite roadblocks around Ground Zero. During the more than nine months of recovery at Ground Zero, the Postal Service endeavored to return any mail found at the site to its addressee.
The Aftermath Cont.
As postal inspectors were recovering mail, they arranged for the National Postal Museum to collect artifacts to be used in exhibits. These exhibits will help ensure all future generations understand the devastation caused by the September 11th terrorist attacks.
The historian who collected the materials recalled: “On the upper floors of the building, it seemed as if we were frozen in time… I could see jackets draped over chairs and women’s shoes tossed in the middle of hallways… many of the windows were broken by firefighters who sprayed water onto World Trade Center 7 from the Post Office in a futile effort to prevent Building 7’s ultimate collapse.”
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