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Tuesday, April 25 News

Sept. 11 museum evokes strong emotions

Obama helps dedicate 9/11 museum at Ground Zero; families of Fairfield County victims watch with pain, pride

Frank Fetchet, of New Canaan, stayed away from the somber ceremony at the new 9/11 Memorial Museum, but his presence is all around the 110,000-square-foot underground gallery that was dedicated Thursday by President Barack Obama as a symbol that says of America: "Nothing can ever break us."

Fetchet, along with his wife Mary, helped establish and lead the Voices of September 11th family advocacy group out of their New Canaan home following the terrorist attacks that killed their 24-year-old son Brad and nearly 3,000 others. The couple along with a team of volunteers have been instrumental in helping families through the often gut-wrenching process of determining how their loved ones will be remembered for generations to come.

"There's a sense of satisfaction that we've done something with some permanence to it," Fetchet said.

Over the past decade, Voices of September 11th has worked with 1,600 families and scanned more than 70,000 images as part of a living memorial project preserving photos, audio, video and other keepsakes in a digital format that will be part of the museum's exhibit on the 2,983 lives lost.

It's a project that Fetchet said served not only the needs of remembering that awful day, but also provided needed therapy to families suffering from the loss of those who went to work one day and never returned.

On a personal level, Fetchet wanted to tell the story of his son Brad who he described as athletic, modest, gifted and full of life.

"We didn't want to focus on his death," Fetchet said. "We wanted to focus on his life and in our case, he was a young man of 24, just a couple of years out of college and when we look back, we looked back at what shaped his character."

A treasured item in Brad Fetchet's remembrance is his personal journal emblazoned in bold letters with the quote: "You can tell the character of a man by what he would offer to someone who could offer him nothing in return."

Brad Fetchet graduated from Bucknell in 1999 and went on to work as an equities trader at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods which was headquartered in the World Trade Center's South Tower at the time of the attacks.

Frank Fetchet, a former IBM executive who now leads business development for Voices of September 11th, hopes that the new museum will inspire all those who pass through it to make a difference and to not let something like 9/11 happen again.

"It's an ugly story that has to be told for current and future generations," Fetchet said. "But it also tells the story of how the world came together and unified as one following the attacks."

It's a story Fetchet knows all too well and is still trying to find the emotional strength to visit the museum himself prior to its opening to the general public on Wednesday.

The museum's artifacts range from the monumental, like two of the huge fork-shaped columns from the World Trade Center's facade, to the intimate: a wedding ring, a victim's voice mail message.

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Some relatives found the exhibits both upsetting and inspiring.

After viewing some of the exhibits, including a mangled fire truck and a memorial wall with photos of victims, Obama retold the story of Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old World Trade Center worker who became known as "the man in the red bandana" after he led others to safety from one of the towers. He died in the tower's collapse.

The president said the museum pays tribute to "the true spirit of 9/11 -- love, compassion, sacrifice."

"Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today," Obama said, referring to the way an underground flood wall that withstood the attack, "nothing can ever break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans."

One of the red bandanas Crowther made a habit of carrying is in the museum. Crowther's mother, Alison, said she hoped it would inspire visitors to help other people.

"This is the true legacy of Sept. 11," she said.

Former President