Almost thirteen years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, President Obama and other officials convened in lower Manhattan on Thursday, May 15, 2014, to dedicate the new 9-11 museum on the site of the former World Trade Center. The ceremony included an elegy on behalf of all those heroes who lost their lives on that fateful day: office workers, firefighters, police officers and others, as well as a series of videos featuring victims’ relatives as well as testimony from survivors of the attack.
Speaking to a large crowd, the president said, “No act of terror can match the strength or the character of our country. Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today, nothing can ever break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans.”
The president was joined by a host of other prominent public officials from the area, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former New York Governor George Pataki, and former New York City mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, the latter hosting the ceremony.
Flags flew at half-mast outside the museum on the site’s memorial plaza over bronze panels that listed the names of those American heroes that died that day in Manhattan, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania, as well the names of those who died in the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.
The ceremony itself took place in Foundation Hall, a chamber seventy feet underground, at the level of bedrock. About seven hundred guests participated in the event, including relatives of those who died in the attacks, first responders, and others.
The president consistently used his address to focus on the American heroes who were slain in the attacks rather than dwelling on the long aftermath of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, going into detail about the efforts to save those in the burning towers. One hero in particular was singled out: Wells Crowther, a twenty-four yeat old man in a red bandanna who was trying to rescue others trapped in the South Tower when it collapsed, killing him. His identity only emerged months after the attacks when his mother noticed an article about the anonymous hero in the newspaper which mentioned his red bandanna.
“He had a big laugh and a joy of life and dreams of seeing the world. He worked in finance, but he had also been a volunteer firefighter. And after the planes hit, he put on that bandanna and spent his final moments saving others,” President Obama stated.
President Bill Clinton and ex-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton accompanied President Obama on a tour of the memorial prior to the dedication. A spokesperson for President George W. Bush, under whose watch the attacks occurred, told the press that the president had been asked to join them on the tour but was unavailable due to a previous engagement.
Obama’s speech of nine minutes was followed by a series of videos shown to those in attendance in which family members of those killed in the attacks as well as survivors shared their stories. Wells Crowther’s mother, Alison Crowther, was one of those whose narrative was featured in the videos.
A bandanna belonging to Mr. Crowther – not the same one he wore on the day of the attacks – is one of the objects featured in the 9-11 museum. “ From this day forward, all those who come here will have a chance to know the sacrifice of a young man who, like so many, gave his life so others might live,” the President said in his remarks, referring to Crowther and the bandanna.
Patricia Fagan had worked in the South Tower and was killed in the attacks. Her sister, Eileen Fagan, was present at the dedication. Some of Eileen Fagan’s remains are included in a special medical examiner’s repository featured at the site. Her sister noted that “everyone here can feel the presence of their loved one, in a very real way. I walked with Pat through the World Trade Center so many times and I feel like I am walking with Pat again. It’s a good feeling, a little bit sad, but a good feeling.”
Thomas Davis – NEWSslinger Contributor