President Barack Obama marked the official dedication of the September 11 Memorial Museum yesterday saying this “sacred place of healing and hope will ensure that generations yet unborn will never forget” the tragedy that unfolded on September 11, 2001 in the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
With heavy security and a heavy heart, I was humbled to be in attendance among an invited audience of 700 victims' families, rescue workers and survivors at the Dedication Ceremony that took place in the historic institution’s Foundation Hall, a space that houses the slurry wall and the Last Column.
The ceremony, produced by Don Mischer Productions in coordination with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, was based around the artifacts within the Museum and the stories they convey. Those stories were told by dignitaries who are currently in office and who held office on 9/11, along with 9/11 family members, first responders, survivors and recovery workers.
The ceremony opened with a beautiful rendition of Somewhere by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, followed by tributes drawn from artifacts, videos, recorded audio messages, and personal testimonials.
There was the story of Welles Crowther, a WTC worker who became known as “the man in the red bandana” after he helped lead others to safety before he later died in the tower’s collapse. His mother, Alison Crowther, appeared on stage with one of the women he rescued, Ling Young. “It was very hard for me to come here today, but I wanted to do so, so I could come and say ‘Thank you,’” Young said in one of the many emotional moments throughout the program.
Kayla Bergeron, who was Chief of Public and Government Affairs for the Port Authority of NY and NJ, remembered taking her final steps to safety on the “Survivor’s Staircase” now housed in the memorial hall of the Museum. “Today I think about those stairs, what they represent to me is resiliency,” she said.
Florence Jones, who was working on the 77th floor of the South Tower when Flight 175 struck, donated one of the shoes she lost on her way down one of the towers. “I wanted my nieces and nephews and every person that asked what happened to see them and maybe understand a little better what it felt like to be us on that day,” she said.
To thunderous applause, Retired FDNY Lt. Mickey Kross, was accompanied by eleven members of the FDNY and Port Authority, as he described a harrowing story of being trapped for hours in the wreckage. “There was a real sense of caring for each other, “ he said.
I was struck by how everyday items such as a red bandana, a shoe, and a battered helmet will be a cornerstone in the exhibits in the Museum and will evoke as strong an emotional response as the steel columns and larger artifacts as we can connect closer to families in a personal way.
Broadway singer and September 11 widow, LaChanze, sang an inspiring version of Amazing Grace and dedicated it to her late husband, Calvin Joseph Gooding.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chairman of the Museum, concluded the ceremony by saying, “Walking through the Museum can be difficult at times, but it is impossible to leave without being inspired.”
With that message of inspiration, I think the ceremony ended on a perfect note with the New York Philharmonic providing a moving performance of Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.
Powerful. Raw. Dignified. Inspirational.
Those were my first impressions after attending the ceremony in the bedrock that stands on sacred ground in the footprints of the Twin Towers.
We must look back to remember.
We must look forward with hope.
We must Never Forget.
Kathy Magrane is NYC-based Director of Marketing for FIREHOUSE and a veteran communications/public relations professional.