Funded by the Mexican human rights group Mesoamerica and curated by economist and author Louis Nevaer, who initiated the effort to preserve the posters before they were destroyed or thrown away, "Missing" marks the first time these fliers will be shown outside New York. The international show makes its first stops in the Golden State before touring the U.S. and then traveling to Costa Rica, Mexico, England, and Japan. "Considering that all four airliners hijacked were en route to [the West Coast], we believe it is a duty to bring these fliers to the people of California," explains Mesoamerica's director, Raquel Romero.
Like the poignant photographs on milk cartons, these hastily assembled posters are last-ditch attempts at hope for families missing loved ones, imparting a chilling reality to the disturbing statistics. Most of the small leaflets were created in response to rumors that victims were lost in crowded emergency rooms or wandering the streets with amnesia. They are a testament to the fact that people turn to the simplest forms of communication when they need to, walking the streets with their posters in the hopes that someone would recognize the face printed on a piece of paper and give them a lead on their loved one's whereabouts.
Many of the fliers -- enlarged black-and-white or color photographs bearing the victim's name, physical description, place of work, and contact information -- still have tape stuck to their edges. Faded and worn by the rain and wind, they are conspicuously free of graffiti -- an unusual outcome for any piece of paper posted in public in Manhattan. After two years of touring, the exhibit and accompanying condolence books (available for visitors to sign and leave messages) will be preserved in a joint effort by the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of New York as historical documents.