Governor George E. Pataki today joined Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, to launch the Tribute Center’s new Volunteer Guide Program. The Program docents will provide tours of the World Trade Center site by specially-trained guides who were directly impacted by the attacks on September 11th, including survivors, family members of those who died in the attacks, local residents and business owners, employees of former WTC companies, firefighters, police and recovery workers.
“Building a lasting tribute to honor those we lost at the World Trade Center site continues to be the centerpiece of our rebuilding efforts,” Governor Pataki said. “While we build the Memorial and Memorial Museum, the Tribute’s visitor’s center and docent tours led by individuals directly and intimately affected by the tragedy will ensure that those who visit the site and we as a nation will never forget those who perished. The Tribute Center is a very powerful project that will not only help with the healing process, but also perpetuate the legacy of so many lives that were lost on September 11, 2001.”
“Each day, visitors from around the world gather near the ground zero site in an effort to make sense of the events of September 11th,” said Mayor Bloomberg said. “People come seeking a personal connection with events that are vast and tragic. The Tribute Center will provide a way for these visitors to learn first hand, the events of September 11th from those who experienced the events of that day. It will inspire people to remember those we lost as we honor their lives by rebuilding and remaining steadfast in our commitment to the principles of Democracy.”
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said, “On September 11, 2001, the United States suffered the worst attacks in the history of our nation. It also witnessed its greatest rescue operation. The Volunteer Guide Program offers a unique opportunity to experience a critical point in our nation’s history alongside the people who witnessed and were most affected by the events. The Tribute Center will provide a place to reflect on the heroism and sacrifice shown by so many and will powerfully testify to the indomitable spirit of people who live in freedom.”
Sally Yerkovich, President of the Tribute Center said, “Thousands of visitors come to Ground Zero every day to learn about one of the most tragic days in our country’s history, but until now, we haven’t provided a place in the area for people to go for accurate information. People want to know the true story of September 11th, the scope of the recovery operations and its impact on lower Manhattan, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, PA. Until the World Trade Center Memorial is completed in 2009, these tours will provide an important and much-needed service.”
The Tribute Center will offer two tours a day on weekends starting in October in the pilot phase of the program. Recruiting of additional volunteers is ongoing. Evaluations of the tour format and the feedback of participants will help fine-tune the program in time for its full launch in mid-November. Ultimately, the Tribute Center expects to offer two to four tours on weekdays and six to eight on weekends.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “The new Tribute Center will provide visitors with an accurate account of what my community, including residents and workers, had to endure during the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center. They will learn of the acts of heroism by our police, firefighters and emergency service workers, of the rescue and recovery efforts put forth by community members and leaders, and of the outpouring of support from across this great nation in our time of need. And, as we look to the future, visitors will also learn of the ongoing efforts made to rebuild and revitalize this historic site bigger and better than ever before.”
LMDC President Stefan Pryor said, “The LMDC is very pleased to be associated with this innovative and inspiring project and to provide $3million to get it up and running. These tours will provide a unique and emotionally compelling connection to the events of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993, and they will offer insight into future developments here at the site and throughout Lower Manhattan. These tours will provide an invaluable service.”
The Volunteer Guides will be trained to tell the story of the attacks on February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001 and to incorporate details of the site’s history and future development.
September 11th Widows and Victims Families’ Association Vice-President Lee Ielpi, who lost his 29-year old son Jonathan on September 11th, said, “We have to tell people what really happened to make sure we never forget. Telling the story from our personal experiences has a remarkable impact on visitors who are eager to understand who our loved ones were, the site and our recovery. Our personal stories put a face on the sorrow, but also join in the celebration of so many wonderful lives and the spirit of unity that marked the recovery effort and today binds us all together.”
Tania Head a WTC survivor said, "As a volunteer guide I am honored to be able to help visitors understand my personal experience. By giving visitors an understanding of the courage and bravery of our loved ones, friends and co-workers, we keep their memories alive and are inspired by their sacrifice. The Tribute Center gives a voice to our loss and reminds us that one of the most powerful things we can do to heal one another is to listen to each other's stories."
The Tribute Center is a visitor and learning center under construction at 120 Liberty Street. When completed in Spring 2006, it will offer exhibitions, tours, public programs and publications. The idea for the Tribute Center grew out of the desire of those closely affected by the events of September 11th to share their stories – accounts of the day and the remarkable outpouring of help and heroism; narratives of courage in spite of loss and grief; and reports of resilience in the face of tragedy. It came from a realization that we are living through a historical moment and that all of these stories can bring perspective and hope to those seeking to learn about one of the most infamous days in America’s history.
The Tribute Center is a project of the non-profit September 11th Widows and Victims Families’ Association, which was founded in November 2001 to advocate for 9/11 victims and their families. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has provided up to $3 million to the Tribute Center. Additional information on the Tribute Center is available at www.tributenyc.org.