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Lee Ielpi Headshot

Honoring My Son At 9/11 Memorial

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LEE IELPI
AP

Over the past few days, as I've welcomed many visitors to our museum on Liberty Street across from the World Trade Center site, I've met some remarkable people.

I met an NBA All-Star player who came in to our museum with his family because he wanted his children to understand what happened on 9/11. I met a young woman in the US Navy who said she grew up in the South and that one of the reasons she enlisted was so she could meet more people from different cultures. I met a woman who lost her brother in the World Trade Center and who has established a foundation in his name that supports young people's education. I met a dedicated educator who lost her sister and honored her by helping to open a school for girls and boys in Afghanistan. I met a young Marine who lost three of his limbs serving our country. I met two presidents of this great country of ours and shared my commitment to bringing education about 9/11 into every classroom. We first opened our Tribute WTC Visitor Center in September 2006, to provide the millions of visitors who come to this site with an opportunity to hear first person accounts of what we, the 9/11 community, experienced on September 11th.

In telling my story, I wanted people to know how my son, Jonathan Lee Ielpi, FDNY Squad 288, and countless others gave their lives as they rushed into the towers to fulfill their mission. Spending nine months involved in recovery work at the WTC site, I came to see my story as part of a community of stories that includes the experiences of family members, survivors, rescue and recovery workers, volunteers and people who live and work in Lower Manhattan. I was determined to share these stories and joined with many others who also wanted to share theirs. Along with cofounder Jennifer Adams, we created a museum whose motto is "Person-to-Person History" - we have five galleries filled with quotations from individuals, and we have very moving walking tours led by volunteers who recount their personal experiences of the past 10 years. We have found that our visitors come to remember the people who were murdered, but they are also inspired by the thousands of people who responded after the attacks.

After we tell our stories, visitors often want to tell us theirs. Thousands of people from all over the world have written heartfelt messages of hope and we have just published a book that shares these stories, poems, and drawings. Our book, 9/11: The World Speaks, reflects the empathy of people around the world and their shared desire to live together in peace. September 11t showed the world compassion in the face of hatred. Let the response help redefine what September 11, 2001 means to future generations. I encourage you to share this message with your children. And I invite you to visit us at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center when you're in New York.

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