9/11 museum visits campus

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Jack Oehm, a retired New York Fire Department chief, sits on the Stephen Siller's Tunnel to Towers Foundation board of directors.

The UNC College Republicans and Young Democrats co-sponsored the exhibit, which is run by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

The exhibit, a 53-foot long tractor-trailer that unfolded to form a 1,000 square foot museum, featured murals of New York City before, during and after the 9/11 attacks, as well as debris of the collapsed buildings and gear from first responders.

“I went to the (9/11) museum in New York last September and this kind of feels like a small version of that,” first-year Henry Schoenhoff said.

The College Republicans reached out to the Siller Foundation on Sept. 11 of this year and have been working with them since to set up the event.

Frank Pray, chairperson of the College Republicans, said he felt it was important to involve the Young Democrats with the event.

“We firmly believe that this is not a partisan thing; this is something that affected all Americans regardless of race, religion, political creed or anything else,” Pray said.

UNC was not originally scheduled to be part of the exhibit’s tour, but due to the recent controversy over the Literature of 9/11 course, the Siller Foundation felt compelled to add it in to their schedule.

“It wasn’t on our schedule until last week,” said Jack Oehm, retired New York City Fire Department battalion chief and volunteer with the Siller Foundation. “I feel so strongly about it that I changed my schedule to get down here.”

Along with the College Republicans, many who work with the Siller Foundation said they worried the Literature of 9/11 course teaches a one-sided view of the attacks.

“(Coming to UNC) was primarily prompted by the Literature of 9/11 course,” said Lisa Bender, regional director of the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run Series. “There are many perspectives that are represented in that course but, potentially, the perspectives missing were those of the victims and their families and the first responders.”

Bender said she does not intend for the exhibit to be in opposition to the course, but instead is meant to provide a completed picture of the events of 9/11.

Oehm said he hopes UNC students and community members will have the opportunity to understand the 9/11 attacks from multiple sides.

“It’s a great country and we’re allowed to believe what we want to believe, but you have to base those beliefs on facts,” Oehm said. “If you only get one side of a story, you cannot make a rational decision.”

Pray said he wanted the event to be a way for students to honor the lives lost during 9/11 and to remember all the sacrifices made by firefighters, first responders and civilians.

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