On 9/11/01, a remarkable group of people began the daunting task of rescue and recovery at the fallen World Trade Center towers, soon to be known as “Ground Zero.”
Firefighters, police, residents, first responders, volunteers, construction workers and families who lost loved ones eventually felt the need to share their stories – with each other and with visitors.
And so the Tribute Museum was lovingly founded in 2006 by firefighter Lee Iopi in tribute to all the victims and the 343 firefighters who lost their lives, including his own son Jonathan. It was the single greatest loss of firefighters of anytime in the world.
Our inspiring guides, Dan and Steve, spoke about Ground Zero with vivid details and heart wrenching honesty. Dan, a Vietnam veteran and 44-year crane operator, was asked to make arrangements to get a crane there by 9/12. Steve, a firefighter, hopped on a city bus and heard a tower fall as he neared the site. Rumors of sarin nerve gas didn’t stop him and his crew from digging and crawling for 30 hours without finding a single survivor.
As Dan and Steve walked us to the Memorial plaza, they pointed out the 56-foot-wide FDNY Memorial Wall, a bronze sculpture showing firefighters toiling among the wreckage.
On to the Memorial Waterfall where nearly 3,000 names – victims from the towers, the planes, the Pentagon and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing – are engraved on the smooth granite borders. It is the deepest man-made waterfall in the Western Hemisphere, where continuous rivulets of flowing water reminded us of tears.
Dan said more people would have died on 9/11, if not for three reasons:
- It was the morning of a primary election, so people went to vote.
- It was the first day of school, so many parents accompanied their children.
- It was the day after a nighttime Giants versus Broncos football game, so many hungover viewers slept later.
The museum’s galleries are beautiful, educational and inspirational – with videos, artifacts and “Person to Person Histories.” But Dan and Steve paid tribute to the thousands who died,
with a rawness and eloquence that simply broke our hearts.
Plan your museum visit or guided tour now. Go to 911TributeMuseum.org