The Postal 9/11 Story


By Nancy Pope, Historian

This post is part one in a series on September 11th and the postal service. Click for parts two, three, and four.

Among the most somber objects in the museum’s collection are a collection of artifacts retrieved from New York City’s Church Street Station post office following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. This is the first in a series of four blogs that will reflect on the postal history of that terrible day 10 years ago. Today, the series begins with a simple chronology of that story. It will continue with a look at the days and weeks following 9/11, and discussions over collecting objects from the tragedy.

The Church Street postal station, located at the corner of Church and Vesey, faced World Trade Center building 7 to the west and buildings 5 and 6 of the complex to the south-southwest. Building 7 collapsed the afternoon of September 11. Buildings 5 and 6 sustained critical damage and were demolished. The Church Street Post Office sustained damage from the debris of the fallen buildings and the force of the explosion but remained structurally intact.

Refer to caption
Map showing the position of the U.S. Post Office at Church Street relative to the World Trade Center buildings.
Refer to caption
This photograph, taken days after the attack, shows postal workers and inspectors moving the mail out of the Church Street building. The World Trade Center site is in the background, the Church Street building is on the right.

The morning of the attack, the employees of the Church Street station were busy at work inside the building. Window clerks were serving a steady stream of customers, as the register report from one window shows - recording transactions up to 8:47:22 a.m.

Refer to caption
Registry receipt from the Church Street post office showing the last transaction conducted that day, at 8:47a.m.

The carriers were still preparing their mail for delivery when the airplane struck the first tower. No one in the Church Street building was hurt, as the building had been successfully evacuated by the time the south tower fell.

  • Tuesday morning — Church street workers preparing mail for the day’s deliveries
  • 8:46:26 — Flight 11 crashes into the north face of the North Tower (1 WTC) of the World Trade Center, between floors 93 and 99.
  • 8:47:22 — Last transaction occurs at Church Street Post Office building
  • 9:02:59 — Flight 175 crashes into the south face of the South Tower (2 WTC) of the World Trade Center, banked between floors 77 and 85.
  • 9:37:46 — Flight 77 crashes into the western side of the Pentagon and starts a violent fire. The section of the Pentagon hit consists mainly of newly renovated, unoccupied offices.
  • 9:59:04 — The South Tower of the World Trade Center begins to collapse, 56 minutes and 2 seconds after the impact of Flight 175.
  • 10:00 — Church street workers have successfully evacuated the building
  • 10:03:11 — United Airlines Flight 93 crashes 80 miles (129 km) southeast of Pittsburgh in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
  • 10:28:25 — The North Tower of the World Trade Center begins to collapse. The North Tower collapses 1 hour, 41 minutes and 45 seconds after the impact of Flight 11.
  • 5:20:33pm — 7 World Trade Center, also known as the Salomon Bros. Building, a 47-story building that had sustained damage from falling debris and widespread fires, collapses.

Nancy Pope

About the Author
The late Nancy A. Pope, a Smithsonian Institution curator and founding historian of the National Postal Museum, worked with the items in this collection since joining the Smithsonian Institution in 1984. In 1993 she curated the opening exhibitions for the National Postal Museum. Since then, she curated several additional exhibitions. Nancy led the project team that built the National Postal Museum's first website in 2002. She also created the museum's earliest social media presence in 2007.