Obama, 9/11 kin, survivors due at museum ceremony

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By Jennifer Peltz
May. 15, 2014 2:30 AM EDT


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Obama, 9/11 kin, survivors due at museum ceremony
FILE - This Sept. 10, 2012 file photo shows electronic images of victims of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, destined to be a part of the future 9/11 Memorial Museum, during a news conference in New York. The museum will be dedicated in a ceremony attended by President Barack Obama on Thursday, May 15, 2014. It will open to the public May 21. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Visitors touch the name of a victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks that has been engraved at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Thursday, May 8, 2014 at the World Trade Center in New York. The unidentified remains of those killed in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 are set to be moved Saturday to a repository beneath the memorial. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
FILE - This file photo of June 19, 2011 shows an American Airlines slipper stored in Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The slipper is an artifact from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that is to be part of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which will be dedicated Thursday, May 15, 2014, in a ceremony attended by President Barack Obama. It will open to the public May 21. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
FILE - This June 27, 2013 file photo shows perimeter box columns from the World Trade Center installed in the 9/11 Museum with a view towards the new 1 World Trade Center in New York. Recovered from the WTC site after Sept. 11, 2001, this structural steel called “tridents,” rose from the base of the North Tower. The museum will be dedicated Thursday, May 15, 2014, in a ceremony attended by President Barack Obama. It will open to the public May 21. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
Iliana Flores, left, and her mother Ilia Rodriguez hold photos of Carlos Lillo, Iliana's brother and Ilia's son, as they join other family members of victims of the of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
A law enforcement motorcade arrives for the ceremonial transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Officials acting as pallbearers carry a casket with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
Family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks tie black gags over their mouths in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks wear black gags over their mouths in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks tie black gags over their mouths in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Officials acting as pallbearers carry a casket with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Officials acting as pallbearers carry a casket with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Part of the Williamsburg Bridge peeks through thick morning fog as police and fire department vehicles lead a procession along Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
An American flag is draped over a casket of the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Police and fire department vehicles lead a procession along Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Police and fire department vehicles lead a procession through the fog along Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive with the unidentified remains of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as they are returned to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains were moved from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan's East Side at dawn Saturday. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Maureen Santora holds a photo of her son, firefighter Christopher Santora, as she and other family members of victims of the of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks wear black gags over their mouths in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Rosaleen Tallon, whose son Sean was killed in Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, joins other family members of 9/11 victims to protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
A flag-draped casket can seen atop a fire truck as the motorcade arrives for the ceremonial transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
A flag-draped casket is lifted out of a police vehicle during the ceremonial transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks tie black gags over their mouths in protest of the transfer of unidentified remains of those killed at the World Trade Center from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to the World Trade Center site, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The remains will be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Rosaleen Tallon, sister of firefighter Sean Tallon, killed in the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks and other 9-11 victims' family members hold a press conference in front of a fire station opposite the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York, Thursday, May 8, 2014. The families oppose the display of their loved ones' remains in the basement of the museum as opposed to on the memorialplaza level. From left are Rosemary Cain, Sally Regenhard, attorney Noman Siegel, Rosaleen Tallon, and retired New York City Fire Chief Jim Riches. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A casket carrying the unidentified remains of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks sits atop a firetruck as the remains are escorted to a repository at Ground Zero in New York, May 10, 2014. Three caskets with remains were moved from the medical examiner's office to a repository built under the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center site. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
A casket carrying the unidentified remains of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks is escorted to a repository at Ground Zero in New York, May 10, 2014. The unidentified remains were moved from the medical examiner's office to a repository built under the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center site. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) - President Barack Obama and Sept. 11 survivors, rescuers and victims' relatives are expected to mark the opening of the 9/11 museum, where the story of the terror attacks is told on a scale as big as the twin towers' columns and as intimate as victims' last voicemails.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum is set to be dedicated Thursday before opening to the general public May 21.

By turns chilling and heartbreaking, the ground zero museum leads people on an unsettling journey through the terror attacks, with forays into their lead up and legacy.

There are scenes of horror, including videos of the skyscrapers collapsing and people falling from them. But there also are symbols of heroism, ranging from damaged fire trucks to the wristwatch of one of the airline passengers who confronted the hijackers.

"You won't walk out of this museum without a feeling that you understand humanity in a deeper way," museum President Joe Daniels said Wednesday.

The museum and memorial plaza above, which opened in 2011, were built for $700 million in donations and tax dollars. Work on the museum was marked by construction problems, financial squabbles and disputes over its content and the appropriate way to honor the dead, but its leaders see it as a monument to unity and resilience.

And its opening is prompting reflection from presidents and the everyday people whose lives were changed by the attacks.

Obama is mindful of "the need to remember and the power of memory in a nation's history, as well as the need to properly grieve and rebuild," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday. Former President George W. Bush issued a statement saying the museum "will help ensure that our nation remembers the lessons of Sept. 11."

Charles G. Wolf, who lost his wife, Katherine, awaited Thursday's ceremonial opening with a mix of anticipation and dread.

"It brings everything up," he said Wednesday.

Visitors start in an airy pavilion where the rusted tops of two of the World Trade Center's trident-shaped columns shoot upward. From there, museumgoers descend stairs and ramps, passing through a dark corridor filled with the voices of people remembering the day and past the battered "survivors' staircase" that hundreds used to escape the burning towers.

At the base level - 70 feet below ground, amid remnants of the skyscrapers' foundations - there are such artifacts as a mangled piece of the antenna from atop the trade center and a fire truck with its cab shorn off.

Then, galleries plunge visitors into the chaos of Sept. 11: fragments of planes, a set of keys to the trade center, a teddy bear left at the impromptu memorials that arose after the attacks, the dust-covered shoes of those who fled the skyscrapers' collapse, emergency radio transmissions and office workers calling loved ones, even a recording of an astronaut solemnly describing the smoke plume from the International Space Station.

Sprinkled in are snippets about the 19 hijackers, including photos of them on an inconspicuous panel.

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