NEW YORK (KCBS/AP) – The new September 11 museum at ground zero in New York City opens to the public next Wednesday. But on Thursday, many of those affected most directly by 9/11 were present as the National September 11 Memorial Museum was dedicated by President Barack Obama.

CBS News Correspondent and former KCBS Reporter Jim Taylor was there for the dedication ceremony and describes what he saw on Thursday.

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“The museum is about two stories above the ground and seven stories below it. From the surface, it looks just like a building in stages of collapse,” Taylor told KCBS Anchor Rebecca Corral. “You look in and the first thing I saw, the first thing that took me was a girder or beam that was rescued/saved from the North Tower, about five stories tall. It’s a huge beam, that is burned and scarred and you realize, even though it’s such a grand structure, a grand piece of metal, it was nothing in this horror that unfolded.”

President Obama said the space was a symbol that said of America, “Nothing can ever break us.”

Many in the audience wiped away tears during the dedication, which revisited both the horror and the heroism of September 11, 2001. That was the day 19 al-Qaida hijackers crashed four airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people died.

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“Their pictures are here, their stories are here, there are recordings, there are sounds from that day, snippets of newscasts,” Taylor said. “And then from months later, you see the recovery effort. It was nine months of clean-up everyday, pulling stuff out. And of all that is catalogued. It is a very emotional and gut-wrenching experience.”

Taylor said much of the dirt is still on many of the pieces being displayed at the museum and that he felt “almost dirty” and had to shower and decompress when he got home.

Some relatives of 9/11 victims found the exhibits both upsetting and inspiring. “I talked to some of the victim’s families and they said it’s hard. It’s really hard because every time you turn a corner, something else just hits you in the face,” Taylor described. “But when it’s done, as the president said, it’s still about love, compassion, sacrifice, and ultimately, rebirth.”

Opening day to the public on May 21 is already sold out, although as Taylor said, there is controversy over the $24 admission charge for adults.


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