In Featured Article, News & Media

At the end of May, I began my internship at the 9/11 Tribute Museum in New York City. Dr. Dillon, former chairman of the Media Department at Duquesne University where I am a rising junior, selected me for the internship because I have shined at school and as an individual. This is my first time being in NYC as I have been in Pittsburgh all of my life.

As part of my orientation at the 9/11 Tribute Museum, I went on a tour of the 9/11 Memorial with volunteer guide Dave. What makes each guided tour unique is they are told by people who were personally affected by 9/11.

Dave first took us to the Firemen’s Memorial Wall at FDNY Ten House where he explained the representation of the drawing on the memorial. We then walked across the street to Liberty Park, the current location of Fritz Koenig’s Sphere, which was damaged on 9/11 and recently moved here. He explained the development of the original World Trade Center, how it came to be an international financial hub, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which Dave experienced firsthand, and other events that led up to 9/11.

Next we headed across the street to the 9/11 Memorial where he explained the events of that tragic day and shared his personal story. Dave worked for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey as a lawyer. He was in the North Tower at the time of the attacks, and was near the South Tower when it collapsed on top of him. Injured and with rubble and debris on top of him, the only thing he could see was a light; he thought he was dead.

Dave feels an obligation to be a voice for his fallen co-workers, and that love overcomes hate.

That light ended up being his saving grace, as he was pulled to safety by rescuers. As Dave walked himself to the hospital, a kind stranger had given a handkerchief when they noticed he was bleeding from his head. When he got to the hospital, the power went out as he was being treated because the North Tower had collapsed. Dave left the hospital and was in awe to see the towers were no more. He could not believe he made it out.

He lost 84 of his co-workers that day. Dave feels an obligation to be a voice for his fallen co-workers, and that love overcomes hate. To show homage, Dave uses the water from the fountain at the Memorial and rubs it on the names of the dead as a symbol for bringing life to the fallen. He uses his tours as a form of healing. For him, every tour gets easier, and he is thankful to the people who come on the tours, because without them his healing would not be possible.

The real heroes are people you never hear about.

After sharing his powerful story, Dave concluded the tour at the World Trade Center Oculus where he described the meaning behind the architecture of the building as it pays tribute to 9/11.

The tours here at the 9/11 Tribute Museum are humbling and inspiring. The real heroes are people you never hear about, those going about their everyday lives on 9/11 who, all these years later, have chosen to make something good out of such a terrible tragedy. Listening to people who were personally affected by 9/11 makes you appreciate the life you live even more.

  • Sean Spencer
    Sean Spencer Intern

    Sean Spencer, a Pittsburgh native, is a double major in Journalism and Web Design at Duquesne University. Sean’s career goal is to work in the field of media as an investigative reporter and web designer and developer. Sean also wants to invest in his community by being mentor to the youth.

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Night at the Museums offers a great opportunity to explore the past & presentWhy Tribute - Lee Ielpi