Friday, December 22, 2006

From The New York Times - How Cute is This?

December 22, 2006
Huggable by Children: Replicas of Dogs That Searched 9/11 Ruins

Shoppers on the lookout for something new, unusual and uniquely New York will find plush 9/11 search-and-rescue puppies on sale opposite ground zero.

Yes, it is a child’s version of the dogs that were taken to the ruins of the World Trade Center after Sept. 11, 2001, to search for survivors. And human remains.

The 8-inch-tall doe-eyed puppies, which cost $11.95, wear blue T-shirts with two offset squares symbolizing the voids left by the twin towers. That logo — in essence, the World Trade Center brand — also appears on human-size T-shirts, polo shirts, baseball caps and coffee mugs for sale in the Tribute Center at 120 Liberty Street. The proceeds help pay the center’s operating costs.

The private, nonprofit Tribute Center, which opened in September, is the first and only visitors’ center at ground zero. With evocative galleries and guided tours, it stresses “person to person history.”

Or, in the case of the stuffed animals, “puppy to person history.”

Lynn Tierney, the president of the center, witnessed those desperate days after the attack firsthand as a deputy fire commissioner. She makes no apology for casting them in terms a child might understand.

“Those of us who were there understand the impact that the presence of these dogs had,” she said. “Their job is noble and necessary. Their handlers are extraordinary people. This is a way of paying tribute to them.”

The center’s twin-footprint logo was designed, pro bono, by Peter Arnell, the chairman and chief creative officer of the Arnell Group, a marketing company. He said it satisfied the visitors who wished to commemorate their trip to ground zero, and also promoted the center.

“We’re trying to bring a lot of good and honorable attention to something we believe everyone should go visit,” Mr. Arnell said, “because it’s a piece of a very well-thought-through representation of this horrible tragedy.”

About 1,000 people visit the center daily, Ms. Tierney said, and closer to 2,000 a day on weekends. Because of the disturbing nature of some displays, the center does not recommend taking young children.

“Grandparents and parents would come up to us afterwards,” she said, “and say: ‘We’re so moved. Is there anything here that would help me start a dialogue with my children or grandchildren about 9/11?’ ”

The puppies were a response to that demand, she said, and arrived about two weeks ago. “They’re really popular,” Ms. Tierney said. “People recognize immediately that we’re paying homage to a critical part of the story.”

In fact, she said, her 7-year-old niece in Sturbridge, Mass., is getting a puppy for Christmas. (Publishing this information, she added, would not spoil the girl’s surprise because she did not read The New York Times.)

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