The 9/11 Memorial Museum under construction at ground zero has acquired its first artifact dealing with the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden -- a sign created by a Brooklyn artist after the attacks.
Cheryl Stewart, 48, a sculptor and scenic artist in Red Hook, created the sign in 2003 and posted it outside her home. It read, in a simple mix of black and red letters on an off-white background, "Where is Osama bin Laden?"
And every day, she updated the days that had gone by since the Sept. 11 disaster that bin Laden remained on the loose.
"It was one simple question that I wished other people had been asking," said Stewart in a phone interview with NBC New York.
Nine years and 232 days after the attack, she received an answer -- bin Laden had been killed.
After his capture and death at the hands of U.S. forces last month, an anonymous passerby in Brooklyn stuck a piece of notebook paper on the bottom of Stewart's sign that read "Dead."
Stewart donated the sign to the 9/11 museum collection late last month, where it will be on display when the museum opens next year.
"I don't need to keep it," said Stewart of the sign. "It's great for it to go someplace where it belonged."
The sign that Stewart donated is not the original sign -- over the years she switched them out for redesigns or after weather damage.
She posted the first one in 2003 in response to the Iraq war, and intended it as a political message.
"We should have been chasing the criminal who killed 3,000 of my neighbors," said Stewart. "We weren't going after him -- I thought it was a travesty."
The sign that Stewart later donated was roughly three or four years old, she said, and had become a neighborhood landmark.
"Everybody knew it," she said.
Neighbors knew it to such an extent that, when Stewart was away from home, they would come and update the number of days elapsed since 9/11.
Jan Ramirez, chief curator of the 9/11 museum, said she wanted to preserve this sentiment in Stewart's sign. She said she was worried that someone would walk off with the sign to keep it as a trophy, and was happy when the artist agreed to hand it over to the museum.
"She was absolutely thrilled that we called, and said right off the bat 'You're the perfect place to have it,'" Ramirez said.
The museum will not open until 2012, but Ramirez said she already has an idea of where to display the sign.
"We want to make sure it will stand the test of time," she said.