Curators’ Observations: Personal Memorials Tell 9/11 Story
In some respects, every day is Memorial Day at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Several stories below the 9/11 Memorial plaza is a modest memorial concealed from sight in a steam room. Its obscurity is intended.
On June 7, 2012 employees for the utility company Con Edison gathered in the steam meter room for a small ceremony in honor of 9/11 victim Richard “Dick” Morgan, who they affectionately called the Mayor of Con Ed. There, in this tucked away space, a wall plaque was unveiled to recognize Morgan, revered as a venerable first responder. They came together a day before what would have been Morgan’s 77th birthday.
As vice president of emergency management at Con Ed, Morgan’s job was to respond to areas whenever power needed to be restored and to manage any safety concerns. On 9/11, he was trying to reach a substation and was killed in the collapse of the North Tower.
A steam room may seem an unlikely place for a 9/11 memorial, but Con Ed employees regularly visited the World Trade Center steam room to record the meter registration and inspect the huge cut-off valve that they called “Big Bertha.” For many it is a befitting place to pay homage to respected Con Ed hero Richard Morgan.
Further honoring their fallen comrade, Con Ed donated to the 9/11 Memorial Museum a shadow box containing a specially mounted original key and key tag to that steam room.
Chief Curator Jan Ramirez and I attended that June ceremony with Morgan’s children, grandchildren and colleagues. It was an emotional occasion for us. We both got to know his family over the years through our work.
We often joked that we wanted to be adopted by the Morgans – a warm family you hope would offer you a seat at Thanksgiving dinner. Although we never had the privilege of meeting the Mayor of Con Ed, his humor, decency, devotion to duty and family still animate his clan of kids, grandkids, and former coworkers .
Very few people will see this humble, small memorial plaque. But this little-known memorial shows that whether a memorial is visited by millions of people or just a few, there is honor, a ritual, care and profound sentiment invested in making a memorial that counts and embodies its unique meaning.
By Jenny Pachucki, 9/11 Memorial Oral Historian and Assistant Curator