Wisconsin veterans face historic flooding to visit 9/11 memorial in New York

59 Northeast Wisconsin veterans braved torrential rain Friday to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum In New York City.
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 10:15 PM CDT
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NEW YORK (WBAY) - 59 Northeast Wisconsin veterans braved torrential rain Friday to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum In New York City.

Meteorologists there say about a month’s worth of rain fell in just over three hours. Even though officials urged people to stay indoors Friday, this visit was so important that the veterans continued outside despite the weather. The events of 9/11 inspired them to serve during the Global War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Used to braving the most extreme elements, monsoon-like rains and flooded streets couldn’t, and wouldn’t, stop these Northeast Wisconsin veterans from making their journey to the primary location they’ve come to see in New York City: the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

On the Memorial Plaza was a wreath laying to pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 innocent people lost on 9/11.

“We went to war because of the terrorist attack that happened here on this soil, we never want to see that happen again,” said Air Force Veteran and Green Bay resident Ken Corry.

Built to commemorate the terrorist attacks, the 9/11 Memorial features two enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools, each an acre in size, set within the footprints of the original Twin Towers. The names of all those that died on September 11th are etched in the memorial.

“When you’re hear it just brings a whole different picture to it and the realization of it, again I wasn’t there that day but to see it in a different perspective, being here, just the size of it is just unbelievable,” said Army National Guard Veteran and Neenah resident Jason Foster.

Inside the museum, the veterans first hear from a New York City firefighter and a Port Authority officer who miraculously survived the towers collapsing. Both thank the veterans for carrying the torch after 9/11 to seek justice for the attacks.

“Amazing guests that we have seen thus far, to put into exact words what it means, it’s speechless, my jaw has been dropped, tears of just complete pride and honor,” said Foster.

After a group photo, it is time for the veterans to head underground into the museum; time to go back in time.

“It brings back all the memories of everything you did the day we heard about this on September 11th, when we found out, and it brings you back in time, but hearing the stories that we’ve heard so far today gives you hope,” said Todd Marks, an Army Veteran and Lawrence resident.

Thousands of artifacts trigger painful memories of 9/11′s tremendous carnage and destruction.

It’s hard for the veterans to see; it’s the most somber and difficult part of this trip.

“This was a hard day, I guess when I was 18-years-old it’s just something that you lived through, but New York is so far removed from Wisconsin, but today was coming back and almost like a full circle, like this is what this is, these are the things that happened, these people, these names, this is a direct reflection of why I deployed and people I lost, it’s hard,” said Army Veteran and Pulaski resident Nicole VanNieuwenhoven.

And yet through it all today, one thing has become clear-- this honor flight’s impact on so many of these veterans suffering from PTSD.

“You can see the light and some of the air come breathe back into the room and some of these vets, they’re around fellow brothers and sisters, some people they served with, some people they didn’t and they’re making new friendships and new memories and stuff that’s giving them joy and passion in life again that maybe there were missing before,” said Corry.

Saturday this mission of healing continues when the veterans visit the Statue of Liberty and then head to the top of One World Trade, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.