The events of Sept. 11, 2001 have defined every single day since. No American that lived through that day, from Manhattan to Tucumcari, will ever forget where they were, what they were doing and what went through their minds. In that one blistering moment, Americans were all united in a sense of grief, shock and outrage. Regardless of what has transpired since, or what will hence, the emotions of that day transcend.
Now, six years later, the newly renamed National September 11 Memorial and Museum at The World Trade Center, is giving Americans in 15 cities the chance to see firsthand what the monument will look like, to raise awareness and – hopefully – some funds, as well as to put their names on one of the massive steel beams that will be used in the construction of the Memorial and Museum. The exhibition begins in Columbia, South Carolina, on Sept. 10.
The tour itself, which the Memorial is hoping will generate some good PR along with some good will from the rest of the country, couldn’t come at a more crucial time. The project has been beset with problems from the outset due to wrangling between New York State politicians, New York City agencies and a myriad of special interest groups, all of which have a legitimate stake in ensuring the monument is fitting. Beyond that, delays in construction at the site have led to many questions about when and if the structure will be built and a rash of recent accidents have led to many questions about worker safety at the site and opened old wounds regarding the safety of Ground Zero in the days following Sept. 11.
Joe Daniels, the President and CEO of the Memorial, acknowledges the problems, but sees the project in a more National sense as being about what about the tragedy binds us instead what is divisive. This, he says, is the reason for the tour.
“The (Museum and Memorial) will be seen as a national symbol,” he said, “just like the Statue of Liberty. The events of Sept. 11 touched every American, not just those in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville (Penn.). This tour is a way of getting the rest of the country back in touch with that.”
The 15 cities on the tour are: Columbia, SC, Raleigh, NC, Norfolk, Va, Pittsburgh, Penn., Charleston, WV, Cincinnati, Ohio, Lexington, Ky, Fort Wayne, Ind, Lansing, MI, Aurora, IL, Madison, WI, Sioux Falls, SD, Des Moines, IA, Omaha, NE and Wichita, KS.
They were all chosen not only for their proximity to one another and to the building site in Manhattan – time is of the essence in getting the building materials to Manhattan – but also in order to reach the greatest number of people.
“We are honored that the tour to raise awareness for the National Memorial andseum is starting in Columbia,” said Mayor Bob Coble. “Like all Americans, we were horrified by what we witnessed on Sept. 11, and the tribute exhibition will allow people all across the country to honor the innocent lives lost and contribute to the building of the National Memorial and Museum. When the tragedy occurred, local students from White Knoll did their part to help because that’s what 9/11 inspired in people everywhere. Now, I encourage all residents to visit the tribute exhibition, sign the beam and make a donation. Let’s continue to do whatever we can do to build our National Memorial.”
“The city of Columbia, CS, where the tour begins,” said Daniels, “is also where the much of the steel for the monument is being forged, including the beams that people will be signing. So it’s very much symbolic, as is the entire exhibition.”
Allowing Americans to sign the beams that are going to be used in support of the building is also a highly symbolic gesture, a chance, said Daniels, “for people outside of the three sites to have a direct connection with the site.”
“Each beam,” he said, “can hold roughly 20,000 signatures.”
Significant crowds are expected in all 15 cities. This, combined with the fact that the beams and the exhibition will not spend more than a few days in any city, mean that you should come out early to get in line to sign.
Another important change that Daniels is hoping the tour will make more widely known is the name. Before, the Memorial was just going to be The World Trade Center Memorial and Museum. From the beginning this drew much anger from various interested parties that felt a national monument should reflect more than just one aspect of the tragedy.
“In fact,” said Daniels, “it was one of the few things that everybody agreed on pretty much right away.”
The Memorial and Museum has so far raised $300 million towards its private fundraising goal of $350 million. This figure includes funds to support capital and planning costs, as well as an initial endowment to support operations once the Memorial & Museum open.
Construction of the Memorial began in March 2006, with preliminary work to cover the original box beam columns that outline the perimeters of the Twin Towers. In August 2006, heavy construction work began to build the footings that will hold up the Memorial, Museum, and Plaza. Late this year, steel is expected to begin to rise at the site.
Donations can be made through and more information can be found at the Memorial and Museum’s website, www.national911memorial.org or by calling 1-877-WTC-GIVE.