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Relatives of victims of 9/11 recount how they honored their dead with relics from the attacks.

Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images

A heavily dented and damaged mass hardly recognizable as the helmet it once was. Thinking about how powerful the destructive force must have been still makes her lose her breath. "George was such a tall, strong man'', says Nancy Nee. And yet looking at the black relic brings her a certain measure of peace. Her brother George Cain was a firefighter to the core and the helmet was an integral part of his life. On Sept. 11, George helped evacuate hundreds of guests from the Marriott Hotel, close to the World Trade Center. When the towers collapsed, he did not stand a chance. The hotel was destroyed, but most of the guests survived. To this day, her children miss their uncle very much, says Nancy. She still hasn't shown her two youngest the helmet.

This spring and summer, photographer Henry Leutwyler photographed objects that were pulled from the rubble of the Twin Towers and the surviving relatives of the people who owned them.  “In some instances, that specific object is the only thing they got back,” Leutwyler says, “no bone, no body, nothing.  It’s the only thing they have left.”

Although Leutwyler is primarily a celebrity portrait photographer he says that still life photos are more telling than portraits because “they don’t lie.” 

Leutwyler isn’t new to photographing object like these -- “artifacts,” as he often calls them.  He’s photographed the gun that killed John Lennon, Michael Jackson’s socks and Elvis Presley’s television with a bullet hole through it.  “Objects are a historical record,” he says, The object can’t lie. It’s evidence.  It’s basically police photography.” 

Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images

Three frequent flyer cards and a debit card are all that remained of their son. Recovery workers at Ground Zero found neither his body nor any parts of it. Thus, the parents placed the four cards along with a photo of their son in a niche in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles. The plastic is the only remembrance of the last day of Waleed Iskandar's life. The youngest of three children, he was born in Lebanon and raised in Kuwait. He graduated from Stanford and Harvard. In his job as a consultant and in his leisure time with his girlfriend, Nicolette, he flew more than 400,000 miles a year. He was sitting in the window seat in row 34 when the plane crashed into the North tower. His parents, Joseph and Samia Iskandar, hope that maybe

Some of the objects he has photographed were in museums; others were in people’s homes.  “A family in Los Angeles, the only thing they got back are four credit cards, which they buried and dug up for us to photograph them,” Leutwyler says. 

One of his photographs shows a watch that was on the hand of a victim of the attack.  Leutwyler notes that the watch ran for some time after he died.  “…because the watch says 2:25.  The towers came down at 9:45 and 10:15 more or less. So maybe the watch survived four and a half more hours, you know, survived its owner.  Or maybe the watch kept on working for a few days.”

Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images

He was the man with the red bandanna, an accessory he had adopted from his grandfather. He wore the bandanna on this morning at the Trade Center, high above the southern tip of Manhattan. Welles Crowther survived the initial impact of the plane. Shortly thereafter, he called his father. It was the last that was heard from him. Months later, his mother, Alison, read an article in which witnesses recounted how they were rescued from a smoky stairwell by a man whose nose and mouth were covered by a red bandanna. Six months after the attack, rescue workers found Welles' body under a shattered staircase. The time on his wristwatch, a Citizen Chronograph WR 200, had stopped at 2:25. The red bandanna was not recovered.

“We have been bombarded by September 11th imagery,” Leutwyler says, “The towers, the smoke, this, that, the whole nine yards.  Somehow I would say it’s enough, because the same images are coming around over and over again: The planes hitting, the jumpers, the dust, the priest, the firefighters, the paper flying.  But somehow I think that the real stories, and the untold stories, are the ones we did, with the objects.”

See the complete slideshow of Leutwyler's images here.