FINANCIAL DISTRICT — In an emotional ceremony on Thursday, President Barack Obama and other elected officials dedicated the National September 11 Memorial Museum, with many speakers recalling acts of bravery and heroism from the day of the attacks more than 12 years ago.
The president joined survivors, first responders, recovery workers and the family members of the victims to unveil the underground space, located beneath the World Trade Center site.
"I think all who come here will find it to be a profound and moving experience," said Obama, calling the museum a "sacred place of healing and of hope."
The president told the story of Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old financial worker who died while helping to evacuate people from the South Tower.
Obama recalled how Crowther, a red handkerchief tied around his face, had ushered the wounded to safety, even carrying one woman down 17 flights of stairs before going back inside to help others.
“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 bandana," Obama said.
One of the red bandanas Crowther was known to have always carried with him now sits in the museum, donated by his mother.
"It is our greatest hope that when people come here and see Welles' red bandana, they will remember how people helped each other that day, and we hope that they will be inspired to do the same in ways both big and small," his mother, Alison Crowther, said during Thursday's ceremony.
"This is the true legacy of September 11th.”
Thousands of other artifacts from that day are now enshrined in the museum's 110,000-square-foot exhibition space, including the pair of shoes survivor Florence Jones wore before she descended dozens of flights of stairs to escape the South Tower, and the wristwatch of Todd Beamer, a passenger on Flight 93, recovered from the wreckage in Pennsylvania.
The museum also includes a memorial exhibition, called "In Memoriam," which details the lives of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks.
"This museum, built on the site of rubble and ruins, is now filled with the faces, the stories and the memories of our common grief and our common hope,” said former mayor Michael Bloomberg, the museum’s chairman.
"Walking though this museum can be difficult at times, but it is impossible to leave without feeling inspired," he said. "Each story here beats with a human heart, which if we allow it, touches our own."
Construction of the museum had been delayed by funding disputes, until the city and state reached a deal in September 2012 that finally allowed work to resume on the site.
The museum will offer previews of its exhibits for survivors, families of victims, first responders and Lower Manhattan residents and business owners over the next week, and will open to the public starting May 21.
Tickets will cost $24, with discounts for seniors and students, and the public will also be able to visit for free for three hours on Tuesday evenings. Admission is free for victims' family members, first responders and recovery workers.