First responders line up to sign the steel beam that will be used in the construction of the national memorial to be built in New York City during the kick off for the National September 11th Memorial and Museum tour, Sept. 10.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain
COLUMBIA, S.C.-- The National September 11 Memorial & Museum today launched its national tour with the opening of a tribute exhibition in Columbia, South Carolina.
The tour, which honors the nearly 3,000 men and women who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, is intended to raise funds and awareness in support of building the National Memorial & Museum at Ground Zero.
In a ceremony at Columbia's Finlay Park, first responders and family members who lost loved ones on 9/11 were among the first to sign a steel beam that will be used in the construction of the Memorial & Museum.
The exhibition tells the story of September 11th through photographs, artifacts and a short film from the point of view of families, responders, survivors, volunteers and everyday people who came together in the aftermath of the attacks.
People from across the country are invited to come together again to pay tribute to the victims and to sign a steel beam that will be used in the construction of the Memorial & Museum.
"In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, our nation came together in a show of extraordinary unity," said New York City Mayor and National September 11 Memorial & Museum Chairman Michael R. Bloomberg. "Building the National Memorial & Museum is an opportunity for people to come together again to create a lasting legacy for future generations.
"This tour will allow people across the country to take part in the creation of a new monument that signifies our response to the attacks and offers hope for the future."
"Through this national tour we will involve as many Americans as possible in the building of the Memorial & Museum. September 11, 2001, was a defining event in this country's history, and we are creating a national symbol that, like the Statue of Liberty, will tell us something about who we are as Americans," said Joe Daniels, President and CEO, National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
The exhibition's opening ceremonies included remarks from South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford; Columbia Mayor Bob Coble; South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stuart; First Sergeant, USMC (Ret.) and White Knoll High School ROTC Instructor David Pelley; Tom Johnson, Memorial & Museum Board member who lost his son on 9/11; and National September 11 Memorial & Museum President Joe Daniels.
Students from White Knoll Middle School, the school that raised more than half a million dollars in 2001 to purchase a truck for New York City's Fire Department, helped begin the event by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
They were led by Maurice Hellman, a Senior at White Knoll High School, and one of the students who helped raise money in the wake of the attacks, and were presented with a certificate dedicating a cobblestone on the Memorial Plaza in the students' honor.
Anthoula Katsimatides, Memorial & Museum Board member who lost her brother on 9/11, and Marcelo Pevida, New York City Police Officer (Ret.) and 9/11 First Responder, joined the ceremony. On behalf of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Pevida presented the City of Columbia and its first responders with an American flag that was flown over Ground Zero.
After the ceremony, participants signed a steel beam that will be used in the construction of the Memorial & Museum. The event concluded with a tour of the exhibition, which includes a detailed timeline of the events of September 11, photographs, artifacts and a short film.
The exhibition will remain in Columbia on September 11, with Memorial & Museum representatives participating in the city's commemorative Freedom Walk.
"September 11th was a shared tragedy; a day that touched every American no matter where we were or what we were doing," said Columbia Mayor Bob Coble.
"We are honored that the tour to raise awareness for the National Memorial & Museum is starting in Columbia, South Carolina. This exhibition is about paying tribute to those who lost their lives and honoring those whose selfless acts saved lives.
"I encourage all residents to visit the tribute exhibition, sign the beam and make a donation. Let's continue to do whatever we can do to build our National Memorial."
Elgin, South Carolina resident and Army Colonel (Ret.) Victor Correa was awarded a Purple Heart and Soldier's Medal for his bravery on September 11th, when he rescued countless injured victims from the Pentagon after the attacks.
"This honors my fallen comrades'," Colonel Correa said, adding that he was honored to have the Memorial & Museum tour begin in his home state.
The steel beam used in the exhibition, manufactured by Columbia-based Owen Steel Company, is part of the structural steel for the Memorial & Museum. In May 2007, the Memorial & Museum selected Owen Steel to supply, fabricate and erect the steel for the project. The beam is approximately 37 feet in length, and weighs about four tons.
"Owen Steel is proud to have a role in the construction of the September 11 Memorial & Museum and looks forward to the day when we can start delivering steel to the site at Ground Zero," said David Zalesne, President, Owen Steel Company.
"We are also honored to support the September 11th tribute exhibition which gives individuals and communities across the nation the opportunity to pay tribute to the victims and heroes of 9/11 by signing a steel beam that will be used in the construction of the Memorial & Museum."
The exhibition will remain open in Columbia until 6:30 p.m. today and from 12 noon to 6 p.m. on September 11, 2007. The exhibition is part of a grassroots awareness and fundraising effort to involve as many Americans as possible in contributing to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center that will honor the innocent lives lost on September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, and preserve the memory of the events for future generations.
Following Columbia, the exhibition will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina. For more information on the tour and additional tour stops, visit the Memorial & Museum's website, www.national911memorial.org.
As details and locations are confirmed, tour information will be posted on the website.
Funds raised through the touring exhibition will go directly towards construction and planning for the Memorial & Museum.
The Memorial & Museum has raised $300 million towards its private fundraising goal of $350 million. This figure includes funds to support capital and planning costs, as well as an initial endowment to support operations once the Memorial & Museum opens.
Construction of the Memorial began in March 2006, with preliminary work to cover the original box beam columns that outline the perimeters of the Twin Towers. In August 2006, heavy construction work began to build the footings that will hold up the Memorial, Museum, and Plaza. Late this year, steel is expected to begin to rise at the site.
Donations can be made through and more information can be found at the Memorial & Museum's website, www.national911memorial.org, or by calling 1-877-WTC-GIVE.