Obama at 9/11 museum: Terrorism can't break us

Print
Email
|

by Jonathan Lemire and Jennifer Peltz

azfamily.com

Posted on May 15, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Updated Thursday, May 15 at 11:24 AM

Poll:
Do you want to visit the 9/11 Museum?

NEW YORK (AP) -- President Barack Obama praised the new Sept. 11 museum on Thursday as "a sacred place of healing and of hope" that captures both the story and the spirit of heroism and helpfulness that followed the attacks.

"It's an honor to join in your memories, to recall and to reflect, but above all to reaffirm the true spirit of 9/11 - love, compassion, sacrifice - and to enshrine it forever in the heart of our nation," he told an audience of victims' relatives, survivors, rescuers and recovery workers at the ground zero museum's dedication ceremony.

"Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today, nothing can ever break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans."

After viewing some of the exhibits, including a mangled fire truck and a memorial wall with photos of victims, the president touched on some of the many stories of courage amid the chaos: the passengers who stormed a hijacked plane's cockpit over a Pennsylvania field and first responders who rushed into the burning twin towers. He also honored military members "who have served with honor in more than a decade of war."

He focused especially on the story of Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old World Trade Center worker and former volunteer firefighter who became known as "the man in the red bandanna" after he led other workers to safety from the trade center's stricken south tower. He died in the tower's collapse.

One of the red bandannas he made a habit of carrying is in the museum, and Crowther's mother, Alison, told the audience she hoped it would remind visitors "how people helped each other that day, and that they will be inspired to do the same in ways both big and small. This is the true legacy of Sept. 11."

By her side was Ling Young, one of the people Welles Crowther rescued.

"It was very hard for me to come here today," but she wanted to thank his parents, she said.

Before the ceremony, Obama walked quietly through an expansive hall with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. First lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton followed behind them.

The museum, which commemorates the 2001 terrorist attack, as well as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, opens to the public on May 21.

Reflections from dignitaries - including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani - were interspersed with the voices of everyday people caught up in Sept. 11.

Retired Fire Department Lt. Mickey Cross described being trapped for hours in the wreckage of the north tower - and then joining the recovery effort after being rescued. "There was a real sense of caring for each other," he said.

Ada Dolch, a school principal whose sister died at the trade center, recalled turning her grief into inspiration to open a school in Afghanistan. "What a kick in the head to Osama bin Laden!" she said.

Kayla Bergeron remembered walking down 68 flights of stairs in the north tower, amid confusion and fear that there was no way out. Her final steps to safety were on an outdoor stairway, now in the museum as the "survivors' stairs."

"Today, when I think about those stairs, what they represent to me is resiliency," she said.

By turns chilling and heartbreaking, the ground zero museum leads people on an unsettling journey through the terrorist attacks, with forays into their lead up and legacy.

There are scenes of horror, including videos of the skyscrapers collapsing and people falling from them. But there also are symbols of heroism, ranging from damaged fire trucks to the wristwatch of one of the airline passengers who confronted the hijackers.

The museum and memorial plaza above, which opened in 2011, were built for $700 million in donations and tax dollars.

---

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report

---

Former WTC worker recalls 'Survivors' Staircase'

NEW YORK (AP) -- Kayla Bergeron was working on the 68th floor when the World Trade Center was attacked.

On Thursday, she recalled her harrowing escape from the north tower at the 9/11 museum ceremony.

Bergeron says that when she got to the sixth floor, it felt as if the whole world started to shake. The south tower had collapsed.

Suddenly, she was climbing over wires and desks.

She followed the sound of a police bullhorn and made it outdoors. She got to what's now known as the "Survivors' Staircase."

Artifacts displayed in the museum now include that battered staircase, which hundreds used to escape the burning towers.

Bergeron says those last 38 steps "mean everything."

To her, they represent resiliency and people helping each other.

---

9/11 survivor recalls 'real sense of caring'

NEW YORK (AP) -- Retired FDNY Lt. Mickey Cross was trapped for hours in the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

At the 9/11 museum ceremony on Thursday, Cross says he was caught in a stairwell with 13 others.

Finally, from their dark hole, they spotted a small beam of light, about 30 feet away. Sunlight had broken through the smoke.

It only lasted a little while, but it was a sign of hope.

Cross says he couldn't believe he survived.

When they got out, they witnessed the "complete devastation."

All 14 survivors joined the recovery effort.

Cross says there was "a real sense of caring for each other."

---

9/11 ceremony scraps 'Bridge' song after Christie

By JONATHAN LEMIRE
Associated Press


NEW YORK (AP) -- A last-minute change prevented what could have been an uncomfortable moment during the Sept. 11 museum dedication ceremony: remarks by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie followed by the song "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

The original program for Thursday's ceremony had Christie's remarks followed by Idina Menzel's performance of the song. That sent social media aflutter with speculation that the scheduling was a jab at the governor over accusations that his staff intentionally clogged traffic near the George Washington Bridge to punish a political adversary.

But just before the ceremony, museum spokesman Anthony Guido announced that Menzel, star of the Broadway show "If/Then," was sick and would not perform. In her place, another member of the show's cast, LaChanze, herself a 9/11 widow, performed "Amazing Grace."

Guido said the change had nothing to do with Christie or the song.

A spokesman for "If/Then," Tom D'Ambrosio, said Menzel has a cold and had to pull out of Wednesday night's performance at intermission. He said she is scheduled to perform Thursday night.

---

AP Drama Writer Mark Kennedy contributed to this report.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Print
Email
|