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'Dear Hero' notes to FDNY after 9/11 given to museum

The remains of the World Trade Center stands

The remains of the World Trade Center stands amid the debris following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Credit: AP File, 2001

After the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, Tanya Hoggard, a Delta flight attendant from Cincinnati, started to notice how many children across the globe had sent tokens of gratitude to New York City firehouses.

Hoggard, a Salvation Army volunteer at the World Trade Center during the recovery, began preserving those items - many of them letters and drawings - as early as 2002, after most firehouses began dismantling 9/11 displays. Over time, she set aside more than 3,000 letters and drawings she called the "Dear Hero" collection.

On Wednesday, that collection will be back in New York City as a donation to the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum. The attacks killed 343 members of the New York City Fire Department, the museum said.

"At a time the world was left paralyzed with fear, and many adults were uncertain about what tomorrow would bring, a sense of hope emerged from children around the globe," said Joe Daniels, 9/11 Memorial president.

He said the collection proves that children can have a powerful impact on the preservation of the past.

For Hoggard, having the collection return to New York City is special. "For me, this is what I've been waiting for," she said. "Ideally, there will be a person who can one day show his or her own child what they sent to a rescue worker after 9/11."

In addition to letters and artwork, the items include a U.S. flag made from paper and dollar bills, ceramic angels, decorative quilts and a large wreath covered with dozens of small, white teddy bears. Some items came from abroad, such as a flag signed by residents of Italy, a banner from Pakistan and a string of 1,000 origami cranes from Japan, symbolizing world peace.

Many of the letters written in crayon read: "FDNY Don't Give Up," "Go USA" and "Thank You For All You Are Doing."

Originally, the items were gong to be destroyed, Hoggard said. But she decided to retain them. Over the course of a year, she flew to New York with suitcases filled with duffel bags. She filled the bags with the items and later had them flown to her home.

The collection has largely remained in storage since 2002. However, portions were exhibited at the Cincinnati Museum Center and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati in 2006.

The collection will be stored at a Brooklyn facility, where it will remain as part of the museum's permanent collection.

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