Whereas most shoes in the Museum’s collection connect to stories of civilian evacuation and survival on 9/11, boots more often dramatize the inrushing traffic of responders to the World Trade Center, many of whom stayed on the scene for days, weeks, and months thereafter.
Boot donors run the spectrum from uniformed rescuers and self-dispatched volunteers to New York National Guardsmen and union-affiliated workers bringing trade skills vital to the Ground Zero recovery operations. Most of the boots bear evidence of the harsh conditions their wearers confronted on the pile, reflected in residual grit, scuffing, cracking, tears, and partially melted soles. Boots worn by experienced construction workers often had steel toes and were outfitted with metatarsal guards to protect feet against impact and compression.
Contact heat and other walking hazards were also challenging for trained canines that accompanied human responders on the pile. The Museum collection includes four protective paw booties issued to a therapy dog that worked on site.
The Museum’s collection includes more than 20 pairs of recovery worker boots. Some of them are presented on this website.