In 2007, I had the privilege to represent New York and travel to cities across the country with steel beams being used in the construction of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Tens of thousands of people signed the beams with messages of hope and remembrance and resilience. Many of them had their own personal stories about what they experienced on 9/11 or inspiring recollections about what their communities did to help in the aftermath.
Equally as powerful was seeing the children, many who were too young to have a specific memory of the attacks, look up into their parents’ eyes and ask the questions we were all asking: “Why did this happen?” “Who did this to us?” Seeing those parents, many in tears, grapple to answer those questions is an unforgettable reminder about our responsibility to the future.
Now, after all we have experienced and endured, to see how far we have come, and to be given the opportunity to play a major role, not only in the reconstruction effort of the 9/11 Memorial, but also in honoring and remembering the nearly 3,000 victims, brings this full circle for me. The 9/11 Memorial will be a reminder to people everywhere of the powerful and binding connection we share with one another — a connection that eclipses politics, race, economic class, and geography.
Joe Daniels serves as the president and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.