Pearl Harbor Survivor Honored in Visit to 9/11 Memorial & Museum
At the age of 94, U.S. Army veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor John Seelie fulfilled a long-time wish on Thursday: he visited the 9/11 Memorial & Museum to pay his respects.
Interpreting the Last Column: In this series, 9/11 Memorial & Museum exhibitions staff share the stories behind the markings and tributes placed on the Last Column. The Last Column was the final piece of steel to be removed from the World Trade Center site marking the completion of the nine-month recovery period. A symbol of resilience and marker of loss, it now stands in the Museum’s Foundation Hall bearing its memorial tributes. If you signed or left a tribute on the column and would like to share your story, please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) managed demolition, excavation, and debris removal operations at Ground Zero, working with other government agencies and coordinating construction workers from numerous building trade unions.
Together they did what some thought was impossible: they facilitated the expeditious recovery and cleanup efforts at the site with no deaths on the job and few serious injuries.
On May 28, 2002, DDC employees in attendance at the Last Column cut-down ceremony signed their names.
“None of us really wanted to have a moment of fame, none of us ever wanted any kind of recognition,” Ron Vega, World Trade Center recovery worker with the DDC and past Director of Design & Construction at the 9/11 Memorial, explains in an oral history collected by the 9/11 Memorial Museum. “But it was the last day and I said to myself, let me just put down the name of the DDC recovery crew rescue team. So I started writing some names down. . . all my new family. And then behind me came some other DDC people, and I said, you know what, you need to write your name on that column. So they did as well. “
“At the time,” Vega said. “It was just a moment of you know what, we’re still here, we’re still standing, we’ve been here ten months, and we need to say that somewhere.”
By Emily Edwards, Collections and Exhibitions Coordinator and Katherine Fleming, Exhibition Coordinator