Among many artifacts at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York is a wall of photographs that pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Nearly 3,000 names are displayed on the “In Memoriam” exhibit, and all but two have a photo above their name. For years, the leaf from a Swamp White Oak tree sat above the names of Albert Ogletree and Antonio Dorsey Pratt because the museum was unable to track down photos of the two victims.
Finally, after 16 years of searching Ogletree’s picture was added to the wall.
Since the museum opened in 2014, staff have been working to find portraits of all of the victims. The New York Times reported that by 2016, only 10 victims still didn’t have a photo.
Staff searched tirelessly, but were unable to produce a photo. Since then eight of the 10 victims have had their photos added to the memorial.
Finding a photo of Ogletree was also complicated by the fact that little was known about him until Grant Llera, a museum staff member since 2020, took over the search.
“It definitely felt (like) a sense of unsolved mystery,” Llera told the Detroit Free Press. “It wasn’t just a nice thing to do, it was an important thing to do.”
Llera already knew Ogletree was born on Christmas in 1951 and that he grew up in a suburb of Detroit with his parents and sister. He moved to New York City after high school, got married, and worked for Forte Foods as a food handler in Cantor Fitzgerald’s cafeteria.
Cantor Fitzgerald occupied the top floors of the North Tower. They lost 658 employees in the attack.
After locating Ogletree’s wife’s obituary, Llera was able to find Ogletree’s stepdaughter. Unfortunately, his stepdaughter, Justine Jones, did not have any pictures, but she did have some information.
At the time of the attacks her parents had been separated, and after his death the landlord tossed all of his belongings.
Llera continued his search and found an old address in Romulus, Michigan.
“I decided to take a stab in the dark and contact the local high school, but they didn’t have yearbooks going back to the ‘60s,” he told The Washington Post. “But they knew someone who did.”
Kathy Adbo, a former math teacher who is currently on the Romulus City Council, learned of Llera’s mission, she got to work.
She eventually found his school photo from his freshmen year at Romulus High School.
“I felt honored to help look for the photo, and to actually find it was an emotional moment,” she said.
She sent the photo to Llera, who “probably jumped a foot with excitement,” and then forwarded the image to Jones who confirmed it was her stepfather.
“It felt so wonderful to have a photo of him, even one that was taken years before he died in the North Tower.”
Llera then took the next steps to get Ogletree’s photo printed on a tile to be hung at the museum. On March 15, Albert Ogletree’s image was added to the Wall of Faces.
“It is a place no one wishes their loved one to be seen, given the circumstances of why they are there. Nonetheless, it is so rewarding to retire that leaf icon tile with the replacement of this quietly compelling portrait,” Jan S. Ramirez, the museum’s Chief Curator, said in a statement.
Llera will now move on to searching for Pratt’s photo.
I hope and pray that someone will be able to find a photo of Antonio Dorsey Pratt so the Wall of Faces will be complete.
Please share this story on Facebook.