Rescue Recovery & Healing:The 9/11 Memorial Glade Dedication

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum, in partnership with “Choir! Choir! Choir!”, presents a special community event to mark the 9/11 Memorial Glade dedication and pay tribute to those who are sick or have died because of 9/11 illnesses and all those who responded when our nation needed it most. The program features special guest Rufus Wainwright, singing Leonard Cohen’s iconic song, “Hallelujah.”

AIRED: September 11, 2019 | 0:26:53



May 30th marks the anniversary of the official

close of the rescue and recovery and relief operations

at Ground Zero in New York.

This year, we actually dedicated a new component

of the 9/11 Memorial,

known as the 9/11 Memorial Glade.

Today, we are dedicating this Memorial Glade

to all who became sick or died

because of causes related to the attacks

and to all the men and women who took part in the rescue

and recovery effort that ended on this date 17 years ago.


Because so much of the recovery was about community,

we invited Choir! Choir! Choir!

and Rufus Wainwright to do

one of their extraordinary communal gatherings of song

in conjunction with the Glade dedication.

♪ And from your lips she drew

♪ The Hallelujah

We teach the song in the room.

The parts come together, and everything builds,

and we turn the audience into a choir.

We're all performing together.

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah Greenwald: There was this sense

of inspiration and ceremony and joy.



Greenwald: The mission of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

is to commemorate

the nearly 3,000 people who were killed

as a result of the 9/11 attacks

as well as the six people killed in the bombing

of the World Trade Center in 1993.

As part of the museum's mission,

we look at all of the aspects of 9/11,

including what happened after the attacks,

and of course, the recovery was an extraordinary thing.

You had, in the space of 9 months,

after the worst terrorist attack in United States history

and the decimation of, you know,

more than 16 acres of Lower Manhattan,

you had the site completely cleared in a painstaking

and dedicated process

that went on from the afternoon of September 11, 2001,

to the end of May.

Tens of thousands of people participated in that effort.

When September 11th happened,

I knew that somehow I needed to be here.

You know that people are going to need help,

and it's just something that you just have to do.

You have to help other people in some way.

Greenwald: The devastation at the site was almost unimaginable

to think of a seven-story-high pile of debris

that went down seven stories belowground,

1.8 million tons of debris

that was caused by the collapses of the towers

and the other buildings.

You were on jagged steel with crevices and canyons,

and the opportunity for injury was tremendous.

I mean, fires burned at Ground Zero for 100 days.

Our agency, the New York City Department of Design

and Construction, was entrusted

with managing the whole rescue-recovery effort.

It was a 24-hour operation, and so it never stopped.

So I was afternoon shift, so 3:00 to 1:00 in the morning.

You really can't describe it.

It was a nasty, nasty job, and there was no way around it.

You had to get your hands dirty,

and you had to hold in advance your emotions,

hold in advance your horror triggers.

You had to push through all that.

Eventually, we got it to a science when remains were found.

Everything would stop.

A prayer would be said.

The remains were placed in a gurney

covered by an American flag, and everything stopped

until the remains were put in an ambulance and drove off-site,

and then it was like ring the bell, back to work.

And so that happened many times during the night,

and it became routine to most of us,

but it eats you up after a while.

I work for the New York City Department of Sanitation,

and I was recovery worker for 9 months during September 11th.

Anything and everything that needed to be cleaned up,

we did, assist in any way that we could to

just get our city back to normal.

I think some of the hardest things I had was,

as I was cleaning up, I saw ordinary people

holding up pictures of their loved ones.

His name is Tyrone May.

He was in Tower 2.

Yvonne Bonomo.

My sister-in-law's fiancé, he also was on the 89th floor.

Palmeri: And I think that was one of the hardest things I had to see

because I tried to put myself in that position.

I said, "That's somebody's mother, father,

brother, sister, husband, wife holding up a sign,

'Where is my loved one?'"

They were walking around like zombies.

That was a sad thing to see.


But yet, there were so many positive things

because of all the people that were here,

the workers, the firefighters, police officers,

sanitation workers, Verizon.

Everybody just worked together.

It didn't matter who you were.

It didn't matter black, white, green, yellow.

It didn't matter.

Political things, nothing mattered.

Everybody was on the same page.


So day after day, you just did what you had to do,

and you know what? There were good times.

It felt good that you were here with others

that understood what you feel.

You understood what they feel,

and yet, you never have to say a word.

You just knew, so it was really a very, very wonderful feeling,

a strangely wonderful feeling.


Everybody who worked down here

knew that this was not a healthy place to work,

and everybody who was down here did not want to say anything

because they didn't want to be taken off the job.

We weren't given masks right away.

Some of the masks that we had were totally useless,

but there were a lot of people, including myself,

firefighters, police officers,

that you have a job to do, you just,

"We'll do it. We'll do it."

I think a lot of people knew

that they were going to get sick...

but they have no regrets.

I honestly believe that everyone that's sick today

would tell you they'd go back and do it again.

People were exposed to toxins

caused by the collapses of the towers

in the aftermath of 9/11, and the air was not safe,

and just breathing in the air

could cause long-term repercussions.


Haven't had a healthy day since I left the site.

I fight for health every day.

I'm on 23 different medications,

and I'm surprised I'm still alive.

I didn't expect to live this long.

I really thought I was going to die last year.

We've lost quite a few already from cancer

from Ground Zero.

We've been to many funerals.

We've been to many hospitals for operations.

People are hanging on and trying to have them

keep hope alive for themselves.

Some have given up hope, just try to keep, you know,

positive, and my friends are all dying.

It's hard. It's hard.

Palmeri: I just don't think the general public realizes

how many people have gotten sick because of September 11th.

We are getting to the point it's going to be

the number of people that have died

because of injuries of September 11th

will actually outnumber the people

who were murdered on September 11th,

and that's an incredible, incredible, sad, sad situation.

May 30th marks the anniversary of the official

close of the rescue and recovery and relief operations at

Ground Zero in New York, but we do commemorate

the end of the recovery every year

at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum,

this year marking the 17th anniversary

of that closure of the recovery.

We actually dedicated a new component

of the 9/11 Memorial,

known as the 9/11 Memorial Glade,

and the Glade is dedicated

to everyone who is suffering from 9/11 illness

and those who have died and those who will die,

and it also is a way for the memorial

to integrate into its own fabric both a recognition of the spirit

of the recovery and gratitude to all of the people

who participated in the work of clearing this site,

searching for human remains,

trying to give families something of their loved ones

and also enabling the city to rebuild.

This was designed by the architects

Michael Arad and Peter Walker,

who designed the original pools and parapets

and the trees of the Memorial Plaza.

It's comprised of a pathway

that runs from the southwest corner

of the plaza toward the northeast corner.

On either side of it are these sculptures,

these slabs of stone, and they're meant to suggest

the determination of those who participated in the recovery.

One of the things we heard from the constituents,

the former rescue and recovery workers

that was important to them about this gesture of tribute

was that it somehow incorporate remnant

World Trade Center steel, and that's what you see,

is these rough and rugged granite pieces,

and inset throughout them in these cracks

is World Trade Center steel in a way simply conveying that,

you know, we're actually stronger at the broken places,

and there's an element of hope that is conveyed.

Vega: The Glade was intended to sort of geographically mimic

the ACO bridge taking you down to bedrock, and I appreciate it.

I really do.

It is our space.

It is a space dedicated.

As it's said, "This is where heroes walked,

and this is your Glade."

We feel it's really important that people remember

the story of the recovery and learn from it

about just the spirit of the best of humanity

that was demonstrated after obviously the worst,

and museums can tell certain kinds of stories

powerfully to encourage reflection

on very serious issues that we live with,

and we're here to inspire.

We have a very special space inside the museum

known as Foundation Hall,

which is the largest space in the museum.

It's cavernous and cathedral-like,

and it's also extraordinarily dramatic space

because within this space,

we have an exposed portion of the original retaining wall

that was built when the World Trade Center

was first under construction in the late 1960s,

and it was literally built to keep the water

out of the construction site.

It's called a slurry wall,

and that wall was severely damaged on 9/11.

Had it breached any time during the recovery,

Lower Manhattan would have been inundated,

and an already unimaginable area of destruction

would have become even more devastated,

and recovery workers spent 9 months reinforcing that wall

and making sure it didn't breach,

and by the end of the 9 months, it had held.

And so now it has become this powerful symbol

of endurance and strength

and the rock-solid foundation of our society and our values.

There's also the centerpiece of the room,

which is the last column.

Palmeri: It's a piece of steel 36 feet tall, 58 tons,

and it was the last column that was standing

was a core column in the South Tower lobby.

You started to pull it up, and it wouldn't yield.

It wouldn't move.

So when we gave it two or three tugs

of the biggest crane on the planet

and can't move the column, we said, "We'll get it later."

[ Laughs ]

The firehouse, they assumed their remains were in that area,

so they tagged it to say, "Hey," you know,

"Don't disturb this area without calling us

because we believe our brothers are here,"

and yes, they were there.

But as the debris field started to become lower and lower,

the more of this column was exposed,

and the column became a totem pole.


Greenwald: The last column was the very last piece of steel

to be brought out of the site on May 30, 2002,

at the official ceremony

ending the recovery operation at Ground Zero.



Palmeri: At the closing ceremony,

I had the honor of standing on the ramp.

I'm a sanitation worker.

I'm not a firefighter, police officer, hero.

I'm a garbage man, maybe a sanitation engineer,

but, you know, when I walked on that ramp...

I was standing with all the heroes.

I was standing next to everybody

that made September 11th very special.

It was an honor of a lifetime, and I marched with them.

It was the most humbling yet gratifying feelings

I think I've ever had in my entire life.


Greenwald: The last column really is an extraordinary emblem

of the community that came together after the attacks

to help with the recovery and to rebuild.

So this is a very powerful space,

and for the dedication of the Memorial Glade,

we invited Choir! Choir! Choir!

to do one of their extraordinary communal

gatherings of song in Foundation Hall

because so much of the recovery was about community.

That was the overwhelming attitude,

was we were in this together, and it was not just the people

who participated in the recovery.

It was the entire city was there with them in spirit

and the country as well.

So community was really core,

and what they do is build community through song,

so it seemed like a logical connection.

The beginnings were basically just Nobu and I,

who barely knew each other,

but we got a bunch of people that we knew together

to sing one time, and it felt really fun,

and people just wanted to do it again.

I think that's what made us keep doing it,

was the fact that people wanted us

to do this event again and put another one on,

so it just snowballed and kept going from there.

It never stopped, and it's grown,

and music brings people together.

It brings people together with a melody, with a rhythm,

and it's undeniable.

The ways that Choir! Choir! Choir! is a bit different

than other choirs is that there's no official membership,

though there's lot of people who come out often,

but there's no audition, so anybody can show up.

So in basically around a 2-hour window, people walk in,

and we teach the song in the room.

The parts come together, and we turn the audience into a choir.

We're all performing together, so it's really interactive.

It's really participatory,

and it really requires every single person in the room

to lean in and really give it their all.


[ Cheers and applause ]

When we were first invited to perform at the 9/11 Museum

for this specific event, we went to the museum

to do a walk-through, and I was so intimidated.

Being part of an event like this was so meaningful,

and I just wanted it to be seamless and beautiful.

And we were honored.

I mean, like, certainly for two Canadian guys to be asked

to go to some of the most hallow ground in North America

and go and help these people deal with these emotions

and work through it and sing together, I mean,

that's something that we, you know,

it's one of those things we wouldn't have imagined

would happen.

Hi, everybody.

Nobu and Daveed went through a very structured teaching.

They have a methodology that they use to teach people

how to sing together,

and they make people like myself who don't like to sing in public

or don't have confidence feel very comfortable doing that.

Goldman: Shake your legs.

Now pull your arms back slowly.

We did vocal exercises with the audience.

It gets people moving, a little bit less self-conscious.

Here are people who are not necessarily

used to singing with other people,

so we want to loosen them up.

Crowd: ♪ Ohhh

♪ Ohhh

Two, three, go!

♪ Ohhh

Really get into it now. Go ♪ Ohhh

One and two and three, go now!

♪ Ohhh

♪ Ohhh

You can do it!

If you're shy at first singing in front of other people,

all of a sudden, now you start feeling,

"Hey, you know what? I could do this."

[ Crowd vocalizing ]

[ Vocalizing ]

[ Crowd vocalizing ]

[ Vocalizing ]

[ Crowd vocalizing ]

[ Vocalizing ]

[ Crowd vocalizing ]

♪ Ohhh

One, two, three, go!

♪ Ohhh

Greenwald: We had former recovery workers,

many of whom were sick.

We had people in wheelchairs.

We had people from the community.

Some of them had never been inside the museum.

They couldn't bring themselves previously to come,

and this was what brought them in, to participate in this.

So there was this moment of inspiration and ceremony.

I spent many, many, many years in that space,

designing the space, setting the final column in place,

and it never occurred to me that such joy

could be brought to such a place of sorrow.

We discussed with them an appropriate song

that they could lead

and they could teach the community to sing,

and we landed on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

Three, four.

♪ Your faith was strong

♪ You needed proof

♪ You saw her bathing on the roof ♪

All: ♪ Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya ♪

The thing that's interesting about that song

is that it is really a hymn in some ways

and a prayer about love and about relationships,

but people interpret it in so many different ways.

When they sing that chorus, their mind takes them

to wherever it is they need to be taken to,

and I think that people interpret it any way they want,

and that's kind of perfect for this kind of thing.

All: ♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

Okay. That was good.

Once the crowd was ready to sing,

the star attraction, if you will, came in.

It was Rufus Wainwright,

who has done many covers of this particular song,

and Rufus was the vocal leader.

He led everyone singing "Hallelujah."


[ Cheers and applause ]


♪ I've heard there was a secret chord ♪

♪ That David played, and it pleased the Lord ♪

♪ But you don't really care for music, do you? ♪

♪ It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth ♪

♪ The minor fall, the major lift ♪

♪ The baffled king composing hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

Crowd: ♪ Ooooh

♪ Ooooh

♪ Your faith was strong

♪ But you needed proof

♪ You saw her bathing on the roof ♪

All: ♪ Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya ♪

♪ She tied you to a kitchen chair ♪

♪ She broke your throne, she cut your hair ♪

♪ And from your lips she drew the hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

Crowd: ♪ Ooooh

Wainwright: ♪ Maybe there's a God above

♪ And all I ever learned from love ♪

All: ♪ Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you ♪

♪ It's not a cry you can hear at night ♪

♪ It's not somebody who's seen the light ♪

♪ It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah


Crowd: ♪ I did my best, it wasn't much ♪

♪ I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch ♪

♪ I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you ♪

♪ And even though it all went wrong ♪

♪ I'll stand before the lord of song ♪

♪ With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah ♪

All: ♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Hallelujah

♪ Halleluuuuu...

♪ ...jah

[ Cheers and applause ]

Thank you.

Let's hear it for Rufus Wainwright.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Greenwald: So many people in that room, so many people

that were being honored by the Glade had sacrificed

so much to do the right thing,

and Ground Zero,

when it was first used to mark this site,

referred to the cataclysm that happened here.

But Ground Zero can also mean a place you begin from,

a place you build up from,

and it was that experience at Ground Zero

that was very present, very palpable with

Choir! Choir! Choir! and with Rufus and singing.

It was just, "This is how you come together as a community.

This is how you build."








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