CONCORD, N.C. -- On the same day the National 9/11 Memorial opened to the public, a touring memorial came to Roush Fenway Racing in Concord, where visitors heard stories from those who lost loved ones and comrades in the terrorist attacks and honored wounded veterans on Wednesday.
The country’s only 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit is in Concord and will be open to the public on Thursday.
The museum was built by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation in honor of its namesake, who gave his life on 9/11.
It features stories and materials from 9/11 and the 1993 World Trade Center attack, including melted metal, aluminum façades from the towers, support beams turned into mini memorials, equipment from firefighters and more.
Retired NYFD battalion commander Jack Oehm gave a tour of the museum to Concord firefighters.
The exhibit is there so Americans “never forget what happened to us as a nation,” he said.
Oehm lost 20 men that day, and still gets choked up by the memory.
“I try to keep it light,” he said. “I try to think about the bigger picture.”
The local firefighters were moved by the displays and the lives lost.
“It reminds us of the people that were lost that day and the brotherhood that the fire service has,” said CFD capt. Tim Baxter.
CFD battalion chief Keith Fitch said he was impressed Oehm took the time to come to Concord and explain “what he’s seen firsthand.”
“He explained how one company turned left and one turned right,” he said. Those who went left died, while those who went right survived.
“It really hits home,” he said. He was on duty in Concord when the attacks happened.
“We’re all brothers, and we knew what they were going through up there,” he said.
Oehm now spends much of his time with the Stephen Siller organization, giving tours of the exhibit and helping with the group’s efforts to rebuild homes ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s “Buildings for America’s Bravest” program “raises funds to build custom designed, specially adapted homes for the most catastrophically injured American service members,” according to information provided by the group.
USMC gunnery sgt. Tom McRae, who lost three limbs in Afghanistan, is one of them.
He was in Concord on Wednesday to talk to visitors and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who drove a car in last week’s Sprint Showdown that featured “Buildings for America’s Bravest” on the hood and digital camo on the back in honor of America’s military. The car also had a thank you message to McRae.
“It’s been really good to come out here … to see that people still remember that there’s a war going on,” he said, “and that’s a huge thing.”
Stenhouse, who also was at the event, said he’s been working with the Stephen Siller organization for about three years.
“I’m glad to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s really neat to be able to come and see it, and it really brings everything back to life. You get to see the sacrifices of the first responders and the firefighters.”
But it’s not just for the emergency workers, he said. “It’s for our men and women overseas who get blown up by bombs and need smarter homes built.”
“It’s a really neat process to be a part of, especially when you can have somebody like Tom McRae and his family come out to the race,” Stenhouse said. “They were super excited about it. It just gives you that extra little something to go and try to be that much better for them.”
A free public event will be held on Thursday starting at 10:45 a.m. featuring tours of the exhibit. Fans also can pre-order a die cast of Stenhouse’s Building for America’s Bravest” car at the event. Proceeds from the die cast will benefit the construction of a home for McRae and his daughter Aidan, along with others in the program.