Governor George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, today joined members of the September 11th Families Association in opening the Tribute Center, the first visitors’ center to open near the World Trade Center site. Commemorating the events of September 11, 2001, the Tribute Center is filled with exhibits and artifacts, and will serve as the interim visitors’ center until the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum open in 2009.
“When I first spoke with Lee Ielpi and the members of the September 11th Families Association, I immediately recognized the tremendous impact the Tribute Center would have. While we build a grand memorial and memorial museum at the World Trade Center site, the Tribute Center will be an interim destination for the millions of visitors who come here to learn and share experiences with the September 11th community,” Governor Pataki said. “The tours and the visitors’ center will tell the stories of the World Trade Center tragedies of 1993 and 2001, including events at the Pentagon and Shanksville, in the voices of those who experienced those fateful days first hand. The Tribute Center will help ensure that those who visit the site and we, as a nation, will never forget those who perished, and those who aided in the greatest rescue effort in America's history.”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said, “The Tribute WTC Visitors’ Center began as a way for a father to pay tribute to his son, and the project grew into a way for a City to honor its own. This is clearly an example of how an exceptionally dedicated group - with limited resources, passionate hearts and a strong will - can make a big impact on our city. The City of New York is grateful for their efforts in building this important monument.”
Lynn Tierney, President of the Tribute Center said, “Survivors, rescue workers, downtown residents, volunteers and family members, who make up the 9/11 community, have come together to dimensionalize the WTC story and give voice to the varied perspectives and experiences of each constituency. Tribute tells a rich and painful story of those we lost and those who remain.”
The Tribute Center uses exhibits in the Visitor’s Center and a Walking Tour program led by members of the 9/11 community to inform, educate and personally connect with visitors who come from across the nation and every corner of the globe to learn, not only what happened on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 but to pay their respects. It creates a lasting connection between those who need to hear the stories and those who need to tell them.
The Tribute Center Walking Tours around the perimeter of the site began in September 2005 and over 15,000 visitors have participated since its inception. One hundred and twenty five guides, all members of the 9/11 community, weave their stories throughout the description of the events of September 11th, giving visitors an unparalleled opportunity to connect with the experience first hand. They hear the stories of loss and survival from those who have decided to share in order to ensure that history is advanced in a “person to person” medium.
Lee Ielpi, one of the founders of the Tribute Center, who lost his oldest son New York City firefighter Jonathan Ielpi on September 11, 2001, said, “I know that sharing my story and the story of the search for my son helps people realize the true nature of this disaster. I can tell them what it’s like for a Dad to lose his boy and then have to search for him, and so many others, in the rubble. Telling our personal stories humanizes the impact of this terrible act and reminds people this must never happen again.”
The Tribute Center was initially funded by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, each of whom donated $3 million for design, construction and Operating expenses. Other major donors include the American Red Cross September Eleventh Funding Program, Deutsche Bank, American Express, private individuals and donations from hundreds of 9/11 families.
LMDC Chairman Kevin M. Rampe said, “The Tribute Center serves an important role as our hearts continue to heal from the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It will honor those lost and will tell the story of countless acts of heroism, the ability of the human spirit to persevere in the face of loss and adversity, and the worldwide outpouring of support during a time of enormous sorrow. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is proud to support such a crucial project as we move forward to build the Memorial and Memorial Museum, which is the centerpiece of the rebuilding efforts in Lower Manhattan.”
Port Authority Executive Director Kenneth J. Ringler Jr. said, “The Port Authority family, which lost 84 of its own people in the terrorist attacks, is honored to be an integral part of the Center, because we recognize how important it is to reflect upon and remember the events of September 11 that touched all our lives in profound ways. As we move forward in the renewal and rebuilding process, we must continue to keep memories of loved ones near, and this Tribute Center will provide the perfect avenue in which to do so.”
The Tribute Visitors’ Center houses five galleries. Visitors will experience the emotional retelling of the events of September 11th, being reminded not only of the startling realization of the attack and the tragic consequences, but also the unbelievable response from rescuers and the world, all of whom came to the aid of New York City. They experience the vitality of all those who were loved and lost through incredible personal glimpses into lives well lived, and they will be able to leave behind their personal thoughts and words.
In Gallery One, “World Trade Center: Community Remembered,” visitors will experience the vitality of the WTC neighborhood as shared memories and personal snapshots are woven together to evoke the diversity and energy of the community. Projected sounds, film and images illuminate a floor-to-ceiling model of the World Trade Center.
Gallery Two, “Passage through Time: September 11th” takes visitors on a journey through a 70 foot passageway that pulses through the events of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001. Staggering artifacts, including a recovered aircraft window, handguns that melted together in the vicious fires, a cell phone carried down 68 floors as the only reminder of an 18 year career, combine with personal anecdotal experiences to reveal the growing pathos of those days.
Gallery Three, “Aftermath: Rescue and Recovery” gives visitors a poignant insider’s view of the tremendous challenges of the task. Visitors are introduced to some of the individuals that rushed to the site and worked tirelessly for months. Sweeping images, a mangled steel beam, tiny garden tools used to mine remains from the site, and a beautiful film invite the visitor to grasp the extraordinary power and accomplishment of the recovery.
In Gallery Four, “Tribute”, victims are commemorated through incredibly moving, personal images and symbolic objects that were lovingly shared by Family members. Visitors get a sense of the youth, vitality and diversity of the victims, the roles they had in life, and the voids they left behind. A perpetual scroll of names pays constant Tribute to those we loved and lost.
Gallery Five, “Voices of Promise” showcases people from across the world that shared in the loss and committed themselves to “NEVER FORGET.” National and International Tributes are highlighted and visitors learn of many who have turned grief into commitment and activism. Tribute Volunteers and others around the country share inspirational experiences about volunteerism dedicated to those who were lost in an effort to rebuild and educate. Visitors are invited to add their thoughts and voices to the ongoing September 11th dialogue.
The Tribute Center is a project of the September 11th Families Association, a 501 C3-non profit corporation that was created by Board President Marian Fontana and Fire Department family members in the immediate aftermath of September 11th. The mission was to establish a viable communications network among families of all the victims, not just first responder families. Over the years the organization grew to include extended families, brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, grandparents etc. It has become a trusted and revered communications link and regularly publishes a newsletter devoted to important issues of interest to the entire 9/11 community.
Jennifer Adams, CEO of the September 11th Families Association said, “Recognizing a void in information for visitors flocking to the site, the Association expanded our mission to connect the visitors with those who wanted to share their experiences. We contacted Local and State government officials, private corporations, foundations and individuals to obtain funding to develop an interim visitors center to educate and inform until the Memorial and Museum are built.”
The Tribute Center is located at 120 Liberty Street, the site of the former Liberty Deli. It has 6,000 square-feet of space on two floors. There are four galleries located in 4,000 square-feet on the first floor and one 1,000 square-foot gallery on the lower level. The rest of the space on the lower level is for offices, storage and restroom facilities. Conceived in February 2004, construction began on the site in November 2005.