Last Saturday, hundreds of first responders from across the country, who worked on the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, gathered for a day of reunion and remembrance. Hundreds of visitors came out to show their support during the First Responders' Day events, which featured a parade, a concert, workshops and many other commemorative activities.
Education and Partnerships Manager Katie Gora and I posted ourselves at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site, 20 Vesey St., to meet responders who dropped by and encouraged them to record their experiences with staff oral historians and StoryCorps.
The meaning of the day really hit home for us when a little boy visiting the Preview Site with his family shyly, but confidently, approached an FDNY EMT in full dress garb, who was speaking to us. He stuck out his hand and said, "Thank you for everything that you did on that day.” The EMT, Lt. Lopez, flattered, asked the boy where he was from. The boy said Oklahoma City. Lopez stopped, his eyes glazed over, and he became very serious.
Taking his FDNY pin from his collar, he handed it to the boy and said, “You don’t know what the people of Oklahoma meant to us in those days. After 9/11, your city helped us out so much, and they were the only ones who knew what we were going through.” There is no question that personal exchange made the boy's trip and probably his year.
Moments like these renew my own sense of appreciation for the stories we are telling to the audience who will someday come to the museum to hear them. It is so important for us to gather as many accounts as we can and do whatever we can to facilitate these personal connections that make this history continually relevant.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum opens in 2012. Excerpts from oral remembrances will be a core component of the memorial exhibition. You can learn more about sharing your own oral remembrance by clicking here.
By Jenny Pachucki, Oral Historian for the 9/11 Memorial Museum