By Meriam Lobel
On June 13th, the 9/11 Tribute Museum, an expanded version of the 9/11 Tribute Center that originally opened next to the World Trade Center, held its grand opening ceremony, hosted by award-winning TV anchor Ernie Anastos. Moving three blocks south from Liberty Street to the corner of Rector and Greenwich Streets, the 9/11 Tribute Museum provides a cultural and historical context for understanding the events of 9/11 through personal experiences. “We are so pleased to welcome visitors from around the world to have a chance to hear the people from the 9/11 community share their stories of September 11th,” said Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Adams-Webb.
And that is what makes the 9/11 Tribute Museum unique. Founded by the September 11th Families’ Association, the original galleries opened in September 2006 as a place where millions of visitors could learn through a variety of programs and exhibitions, both onsite and online, that utilize history as a means to inspire a better tomorrow.
A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
Tribute volunteers are all part of the 9/11 community—family, members, survivors, rescue and recovery workers and residents of Lower Manhattan. These volunteer guides narrate their personal stories to visitors in the galleries and on walking tours and engage with visitors of all ages and from all over the world. The stories about what people lived through on the morning of September 11th and in the immediate aftermath were harrowing, devastating and painful, but they were also inspiring.
The theme of making a difference in the world is present throughout the 9/11 Tribute Museum’s galleries. Embracing the tagline “Compassion, Resilience, Service,” the museum’s exhibits focus on the many ways people helped each other in response to the terrorist attacks in 2001 and highlight the creative projects and outreach efforts developed by 9/11 family members, responders and survivors ever since. Inspired by the generosity and kindness they received from all over the world, members of the 9/11 community have changed their own lives by reaching out to help others, developing foundations and service initiatives. “To take your tragedy and try to turn that into something good for other people, now that’s incredible,” says 9/11 Commission Co-Chair Thomas Kean, in a video that plays in a gallery titled Service to the World.
A BETTER TOMORROW
Lee Ielpi, Tribute Museum Co-Founder and Board President, who is a retired firefighter and whose son, Jonathan Lee Ielpi, also a firefighter, was killed in the attack, emphasizes the importance of this positive focus. “We hope that our new 9/11 Tribute Museum can become a place where people come to share their ideas about service and to engage in service activities. Most importantly, we want to convey this message to young people. Each one of them can work to make tomorrow a better day,” he said.
The 9/11 Tribute Museum has developed programming specifically for young people who visit to hear first-person stories and for offsite use in classrooms. Over the past ten years, multiple resources have been created to help teachers introduce the topic of 9/11 in sensitive ways. Bi-annual teacher workshops, as well as general public programs, provide insights into the many aspects of 9/11 that can be explored in a way that encourages students to understand the healing power of helping others.
The final gallery of the 9/11 Tribute Museum, Seeds of Service, gives visitors the chance to think about what issue they want to address, and to engage with an interactive media wall to share their commitment to service. Visitors are invited to plant a seed of service by supporting an issue, making a donation or contributing their skills to a good cause. “By the end of our first year, we hope to have 10,000 pledges of service on our digital map of the world, every one of them pleased to be talking about how they are changing the world, one small step at a time,” commented Kristine Pottinger, Tribute Museum’s Director of Programs.
The 9/11 Tribute Museum reminds people of the powerful positive difference our local and global communities can make when we stand together. The Tribute Museum provides an understanding of the loss and impact of 9/11 while demonstrating the resilience and recovery of New York City, the country, and the world. We look forward to welcoming you to our galleries to hear the personal stories of the 9/11 community.
For more information on the 9/11 Tribute Museum, visit 911tributemuseum.org.
Meriam Lobel is the Senior Curator of Exhibits and Public Programs at the 9/11 Tribute Museum. She joined the Tribute staff in 2005 because as an arts presenter and a long-time resident of Lower Manhattan she felt a need to think about the ways 9/11 was changing our world. In her work, Meriam curated both the initial exhibits that opened in September 2006 and the new exhibits that opened this year. She has recorded over 500 personal stories of family members, survivors, responders, rescue workers and residents, upon which all of the exhibits are based.