DALLAS — A tour of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum begins in a bright area representing his early domestic agenda, but with one turn, visitors find themselves in a darkened room surrounded by chilling reminders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
This contrast, symbolizing Bush’s abrupt shift in priorities less than eight months into his first term, is among the most poignant exhibits at a museum being dedicated this week that also chronicles the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, the Florida recount and various other historical events.
Bush told The Associated Press last week that he wanted to make sure the part of the museum devoted to 9/11 was powerful enough to remind visitors of how much the world changed that day.
“It’s very emotional and very profound,” Bush said. “One of the reasons it has to be is because memories are fading rapidly and the profound impact of that attack is becoming dim with time, and we want to make sure people remember not only the lives lost and the courage shown but the lesson that the human condition overseas matters to the national security of our country.”
The George W. Bush Presidential Center, which includes the library and museum along with Bush’s policy institute, will be dedicated Thursday on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. All the living presidents, including President Barack Obama and Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, plan to attend. It will open to the public on May 1.
The museum uses everything from news clips to interactive screens to artifacts to tell the story of Bush’s eight years in office. A container of chads — the remnants of the famous Florida punch cards — is part of an exhibit about the 2000 election, which Bush won after the Supreme Court ordered Florida to stop its recount process more than a month after Election Day.
In the 9/11 display, called the “Day of Fire,” video images from the attacks flash around a twisted metal beam recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. The exhibit also includes the bullhorn Bush used days later to address a crowd of rescue workers at ground zero: “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
Brendan Miniter, who served as the liaison for the Bushes as the museum’s exhibits were developed, said the idea was to present the facts and “let them speak for themselves.” He said they also did not want to shy away from more controversial aspects of the administration.