The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

'Nothing can ever break us': Sept. 11 museum opens to family members, survivors and rescuers

  • Print

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Tears in her eyes, firefighter widow Maureen Fanning emerged Thursday from the new Sept. 11 museum deep beneath ground zero, unable to bring herself to look at all of it.

"I just think it would be a little too overwhelming today," she said, unsure when she would return. "It's a lot to digest, to absorb. Not anytime soon."

Victims' friends and relatives, rescue workers and survivors of the terrorist attack descended into the subterranean space and revisited the tragedy as the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum was dedicated by President Barack Obama as a symbol that says of America: "Nothing can ever break us."

The museum's artifacts range from the monumental, like two of the huge fork-shaped columns from the World Trade Center's facade, to the intimate: a wedding ring, a victim's voice mail message.

Some relatives found the exhibits both upsetting and inspiring.

Patricia Smith's visit came down to one small object: the New York Police Department shield her mother, Moira, was wearing 12 1/2 years ago when she died helping to evacuate the twin towers.

Patricia, 14, said she left feeling a new level of connection to her mother. Still, "seeing that, reading the story that goes along with it, even if I already know it, is really upsetting," she said.

David Greenberg, who lost a dozen colleagues who met for breakfast at the trade centre's Windows on the World restaurant on Sept. 11, called the museum "breathtaking, awe-inspiring and emotional."

"You have your moments when there can be solitude, moments when there can be happiness, and a mixture of emotions through the entire museum," said Greenberg, who worked at an office nearby.

The museum opens to the public Wednesday, but many of those who were affected most directly by 9-11 could start exploring it Thursday.

Victims' relatives also paid their first visits to a repository at the museum that contains unidentified remains from the disaster.

Monika Iken never received her husband's body. "But he's here. I know he's here," Iken, a museum board member, said after leaving the repository.

Many in the audience wiped away tears during the dedication ceremony, which revisited both the horror and the heroism of Sept. 11, 2001, the day 19 al-Qaida hijackers crashed four airliners into the trade centre, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in an attack that plunged the U.S. into a decade of war in Afghanistan against al-Qaida's Taliban protectors.

After viewing some of the exhibits, including a mangled fire truck and a memorial wall with photos of victims, Obama retold the story of Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old World Trade Center worker who became known as "the man in the red bandanna" after he led others to safety from one of the towers. He died in the tower's collapse.

The president said the museum pays tribute to "the true spirit of 9-11 — love, compassion, sacrifice."

"Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today," Obama said, referring to the way the foundation withstood the attack, "nothing can ever break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans."

One of the red bandannas Crowther made a habit of carrying is in the museum. Crowther's mother, Alison, said she hoped it would inspire visitors to help other people.

"This is the true legacy of Sept. 11," she said.

Retired Fire Department Lt. Mickey Cross described being trapped for hours in the wreckage — and then joining the recovery effort after being rescued.

Kayla Bergeron remembered taking her final steps to safety, after 68 flights, on the battered staircase that now sits in the museum. "Today, when I think about those stairs, what they represent to me is resiliency," she said.

David Beamer reflected on his son's wristwatch, stopped when a hijacked plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field after Todd Beamer and other passengers and crew members stormed the cockpit.

Florence Jones recalled the shoes she shed on her way down the World Trade Center's south tower.

"I wanted my nieces and my nephew and every person that asked what happened to see them and, maybe, understand a little bit better what I felt like to be us on that day," she said.

___

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman, Karen Matthews and Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Stuart Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100527-Winnipeg Free Press THe Provencher Foot Bridge is lit up
  • An American White Pelican takes flight from the banks of the Red River in Lockport, MB. A group of pelicans is referred to as a ‘pod’ and the American White Pelican is the only pelican species to have a horn on its bill. May 16, 2012. SARAH O. SWENSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the city grant mosquito buffer zones for medical reasons only?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google