On May 30, 2002, at the ceremony marking the official end of the rescue, recovery, and relief operation at Ground Zero, engineer and recovery worker Joe Bradley captured the unifying spirit that characterized the recovery effort when he said, “We came in as individuals. And we’ll walk out together.” Now permanently displayed in our Museum, Joe’s words serve as a reminder of the enduring legacy of service that remains an integral part of our mission today.
In this spirit, it is my privilege to invite you and your loved ones to join the 9/11 Memorial & Museum for our annual evening of tribute and remembrance on Wednesday, May 30. Other programs and commemorative activities dedicated to marking this historic anniversary will take place throughout the week from May 29 through June 3.
The May 30 commemoration will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a special program, Stories from the Recovery, at the Last Column in Foundation Hall, followed immediately by a ceremony to honor all those who made the rebuilding of this sacred site possible. As in past years, in response to the escalation of the 9/11 health crisis, the tribute will also include a moment of silence in remembrance of the growing number of men and women who have died from 9/11-related illnesses.
More information about the May 30 tribute and other commemorative activities being held in recognition of the 16th anniversary of the nine-month recovery effort can be found on our website here.
I sincerely hope you will join us as we come together to celebrate the spirit of unity and service that carried us through our darkest hours, pay tribute to all who have served, and recognize those who continue to make the ultimate sacrifice.
With warm regards,
|Alice M. Greenwald
President & CEO
Immediately after the collapse of the World Trade structures, Antonio Vendome (who rose from having one coffee cart to a chain of restaurants then to the challenges of real estate acquisition and development in New York City) as the proprietor for over 20 years of Nino’s Restaurant on Canal Street, realized there were thousands of professional and volunteer rescue and emergency workers arriving from all over the tristate area (and later the entire country) to assist at the site of the tragedy yet no provisions had been made to provide them sustenance. In response, he immediately opened the doors to his establishment to serve those uniformed first responders who were working tirelessly under horrendous conditions, night and day, over continuous twelve-hour shifts. Thus began the journey whereby Nino’s became the center of food service to thousands with the premises growing from a small luncheonette serving 100 meals per day to a “commando kitchen” operation that spanned the four lanes of Canal Street from the West Side Highway to Varick Street open 24 hours a day, 7 days per week serving, at its peak, 7000 meals daily. The operation continued until the site was stabilized and debris cleared such that the regular crews could begin to rebuild the World Trade Center in earnest.
At the outset, comprehending the magnitude of the situation, Antonio, with his extensive knowledge and experience in food and beverage service as well as in real estate and business in general, was able to assemble and lead a dedicated group that turned Canal Street into a vast food preparation and serving operation that met the nutritional needs, free of charge, for the extraordinary number of dedicated people working in Lower Manhattan. Recognizing this would last for months and require significant resources, Antonio established a not-for-profit organization, Nino’s 9/11 Fund, that, over the course of the crisis, raised over $2 million dollars to directly purchase food and drink, brought in many millions of dollars more worth of donated food as well as coordinated the efforts of over 10,000 volunteers who processed, prepared and served over a million meals over a four month period during the crisis.
Wishing to document the extraordinary goodwill and sacrifice of the volunteers, professionals and the heartfelt public response that shone in stark contrast to the vicious circumstance of the collapse, Antonio initiated a documentary effort to record, through photographs and conservation, the activities of the people involved and responses of the general public. The voluminous spontaneous artworks that were created and presented, letters in support from all over the world, statues, signs and other related artifacts were preserved and catalogued. A significant portion of this archive has since been donated to the permanent collections of the New York State Museum in Albany, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C and, of course, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.
Commentary by Antonio Vendome:
Integral to my experience was my observation of the true benevolent nature of the ties that bind us. Through food, friendship and love the workers and volunteers established and maintained a true sense of decency and normalcy under the extreme duress of tragedy all while the real possibility of unknown additional threats loomed. The continued care and goodwill from the community, city, country and actually, many corners of the world, was integral to maintaining the spirits and extreme dedication of all those involved.
One observation that surprised me was the efficiency and intelligence of the volunteers. Being in business my entire life I became accustomed to the need for repetition when directing employees in their daily tasks in order to maintain certain standards. Here, it was totally unnecessary. Regardless of the complexity of the task, one request and sometimes just the mere suggestion of an improvement was all that was needed and the job was executed immediately, completely and beyond all expectations. This greatly impressed me and was an example of what people are capable of at their most selfless when giving their all.
Since the collapse, peace has returned to the United States and a certain regularity has resumed which an attack such as this was designed to disrupt, in the extreme, in order to establish fear and dread over the populace. Participating in the Rescue and Recovery effort and observing the extraordinary acts of self-sacrifice and dedication of the professionals and volunteers illustrated that, rather than be coerced, intimidated and cowed, the effect was in fact the opposite – that of courage and resolve. This is testament to the futility of the methods of violence and the resilience of the human spirit to those nefarious few who, through vicious means, seek to terrorize and disrupt wholesale the lives of innocent citizens.