Obama at 9/11 Museum: “Nothing Can Change Who We Are as Americans”

Posted: May 15, 2014 2:30 PM

It was a somber day on Thursday in New York City as families and dignitaries gathered together to dedicate the newly completed 9/11 museum. President Obama was there and spoke movingly about the men, women and children whose names now line its walls. In particular, he told the story of a courageous and selfless young man, Welles Crowther, who lost his life saving others that day.

“In those awful moments after the South Tower was hit some of the injured huddled in the wreckage of the 78th floor,” he began. “The fires were spreading, the air was filled with smoke, it was dark and they could barely see. It seemed as if there was no way out. And then there came a voice: clear, calm, saying he had found the stairs. A young man. In his 20s. Strong. He emerged from the smoke and over his nose and his mouth he wore a red handkerchief. He called for fire extinguishers to fight back the flames.”

As it turned out, this young man saved countless lives -- including a woman he carried to safety on his shoulders -- before returning to the burning tower to help rescue others.

But he never made it out.

“They didn’t know his name and they didn’t know where he came from,” the president intoned. “But they knew their lives had been saved by the man in the red bandana.”

Today, visitors can travel to New York City and see one of Welles’ red bandanas hanging on display in the museum.

The president also discussed the significance of the project. As a tangible and hallowed building, he explained, the 9/11 museum will stand the test of time, forever memorializing the victims of 9/11 and their families.

“Here at this memorial, this museum, we come together,” he said. “We stand in the footprints of two mighty towers, graced by the rush of eternal waters. We look into the faces of nearly 3,000 innocent souls -- men and women and children of every race and every creed from every corner of the world. We can touch their names and hear their voices.”

“Here we tell their story so that generations yet unborn will never forget,” he said. And in spite of the tragedy, he added, America is a stronger and more resilient nation.

“[This] nation [stands] tall and united and unafraid because no act of terror can match the strength and character of our country,” he said. “Like a great wall and bedrock that embraces us today, nothing can ever break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans.”

“Those we lost live on in us,” he continued. “In the families who love them still. In the friends who remember them always. And in a nation that will honor them now -- and forever.”