Volume 19 • Issue 17 | September 8 - 14, 2006

Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

A 9/11 family member cried as she looked at photos in the WTC Tribute Center, which opens to the public next week.

Emotional first look at 9/11 Tribute Center

A few family members stood quietly among reporters and photographers, some crying, others just holding hands Wednesday for a preview opening of the WTC Tribute Center across from the World Trade Center site. Three firefighters from Squad 18 in the West Village stood looking at a turnout coat in a display case. Except for the low sounds of 9/11 tapes recorded that day, silence permeated the 5,000 sq. ft. exhibition space.

After a few short speeches and a ribbon-cutting, politicians and relatives of 9/11 victims entered the center at 120 Liberty St. It is expected to open to the public Sept. 18.

A large room with photo murals photographed by Kathleen Hession in 1995 from the top floor of the Trade Center ease the visitor into the Center. Narrow halls are filled with recovered artifacts, photos of the lost and the still-unsettling missing posters.

After Governor George Pataki recounted the center’s origin, Mayor Michael Bloomberg hinted at the long road to a memorial. “Good things may take time but they are worth preserving,” he said.

The podium stood in front of Engine 10, Ladder 10, known as “10 House” and several firefighters, some in dress uniforms, stood listening to the plaudits. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver observed that, “It’s a bittersweet occasion. It is essential that the visitors to this city know the power of this place.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn acknowledged the hard work of the Center’s creators. “It’s clear to me that people have worked night and day, around the clock,” she said, praising the “tremendous selflessness” of the first responders and the people who labored to honor them with the Center.

Lee Ielpi of the 9/11 Families Association was a driving force behind the center. “Complacency has begun to set in. If we let that complacency settle in, history will begin to repeat itself,” he warned.

— Jefferson Siegel


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