The mini-documentary video above begins with this: “It was loaded on a plane doomed never to reach its destination, fell through a fireball and blew through the streets of Manhattan with millions of other documents.”
But as this stirring piece goes on to illustrate, this one red envelope bearing a letter from Cape Neddick, Maine, survived one of America’s greatest tragedies and did reach its destination against all odds.
A businessman from London fleeing the scene of the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, picked up the brightly colored debris on impulse, while the hijacked passenger plane that had been carrying it exploded in a raging inferno above.
When that businessman reached his home city, he put the envelope back in the mail and sent it to its intended recipients in Los Angeles, Lawry and Charlie Meister.
Lawry Meister told the New York Times the letter arrived not long after airlines resumed flights in the aftermath of the confidence-shaking attacks. She recalled:
There was an overnight envelope from someone I didn’t know, and this was right about the time when the anthrax attacks had started. Of course, my curiosity got the better of me, and I said, ‘Forget about it, I’m being silly. I’ll just open it up.’
The letter was an invitation to Meister’s cousin’s wedding rehearsal dinner in October, apparently to be held at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, a scenic location I know well from my years covering the City of Ships for The Forecaster and The Times Record.
In the documentary piece above, Lawry goes on:
The envelope was still a little torn and tattered and damp and covered with ash. … The fact that something as flimsy and transitory as an envelope would survive that [is amazing].
The New York Times piece is one in a series of stories about the artifacts included at the National September 11 Memorial Museum. Click here for more of that coverage.