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Honoring the memory of 9/11 with a new museum

May 15, 2014 at 6:14 PM EST
A new National September 11 Memorial Museum commemorates both the 2001 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. At each turn, exhibits recount chilling and heartbreaking moments from that September day and honors the victims with portraits of each individual killed in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. Judy Woodruff reports on the dedication ceremony.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: It was more than a decade in the making. And, today, scores of survivors, families of those lost and dignitaries gathered for a somber and emotional ceremony to dedicate the 9/11 Museum.

It’s located at the site of where the towers fell in 2001. Seven stories below ground hard by the bedrock that held back the Hudson River and held up the World Trade Center towers, the haunting voices of a children’s choir echoed through the new hall this morning.

Political leaders past and present gathered with victims’ relatives, survivors, and rescuers for the dedication. President Obama was among those who praised the 9/11 Memorial Museum as a place for remembrance and healing, but he also recalled inspirational and heartrending stories of courage.

Mr. Obama spoke of 24-year-old finance worker Welles Crowther, who used his daily-worn red handkerchief to shield his face from smoke as he led survivors to safety. He carried a woman down 17 flights.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Then he went back, back up all those flights, then back down again, bringing more wounded to safety, until that moment when the tower fell. They didn’t know his name. They didn’t know where he came from, but they knew their lives had been saved by the man in the red bandanna.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Crowther’s body was recovered in 2002. His mother, Allison, later donated a similar red bandanna to the museum, in hopes it would inspire others. It’s one of the many seemingly mundane articles on display now vested with a deep and enduring meaning.

Florence Jones gave the shoes she wore that day. She walked down 77 floors.

FLORENCE JONES, Survivor, South Tower: I wasn’t dressed for it, nor did I expect my boss to have to carry my shoes. I was one of the last of the 25 people to come out of the South Tower.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Beamer donated his son Todd’s watch. Todd Beamer helped lead the revolt against the hijackers of Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.

DAVID BEAMER, Father of Flight 93 Victim: But it doesn’t tell what time it is anymore. What it does tell is what time it was. It says it’s the 11th.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Built beneath the fountains and pools of the 9/11 Memorial, the museum commemorates both the 2001 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

At each turn, exhibits recount chilling and heartbreaking moments from that September day, massive, mangled pieces of steel torn apart by the impact of Flight 11, a fire engine from Ladder Company 3. The front cab was shorn off. Eleven of its firefighters died in the North Tower. And portraits of each individual killed in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

But there are symbols of resilience and hope, too, like the last column that towered above Ground Zero as the months of recovery came to an end, becoming a makeshift memorial itself.

And there are the so-called survivor stairs that ushered so many to safety.

North Tower office worker Kayla Bergeron:

KAYLA BERGERON, Survivor, North Tower: I had walked those stairs a hundred times. Now they were all that separated us from the devastation behind us and life in front of us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The museum will remain open to survivors, families, and first-responders 24 hours a day through Tuesday.

It opens to the general public on May 21.