Unforgettable: Navy SEAL Museum’s powerful 9/11 exhibit

PHOTO BY KAILA JONES

To commemorate the lives lost during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on our country, the National Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce unveiled new additions to its 9/11 exhibit at a 20th Remembrance ceremony last Saturday. Throughout the day, the names of all those who died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Penn., when heroic passengers aboard Flight 93 diverted the hijackers, were projected onto a steal beam from the World Trade Center, that had been installed in the museum in 2014.

The ceremony was led by the museum’s executive director, Cmdr. Grant Mann, USN (SEAL) Ret., and included a Presentation of Colors by Centennial High School’s Black Talon Navy JROTC, a wreath laying at the 9/11 exhibit by members of the St. Lucie County Fire Department, and the playing of Taps by Duke Scales. The special guest speaker was Cmdr. Shaun Chittick, USN (SEAL) Ret., who provided an eyewitness account of the attack on the Pentagon.

Earlier in the week, Vero Beach 32963 had a chance to sit down with Mann, who shared plans for the ceremony, and provided information about the 9/11 exhibit and other additions to the impressive museum.

“We had an opportunity to get a piece of the Pentagon wall, so that’s a new addition that we’re going to unveil,” said Mann. “That leads me into the guest speaker, Sean Chittick, who was at the Navy annex, which is next to the Pentagon, just down the hill.”

Mann explained that after the attack, Chittick ran down to the Pentagon where, understandably, he found chaos.

“He’s an 18 Delta, which is equivalent to a paramedic or combat trauma. So he gave a hand that day, helped triage and organize leadership with the firefighters and the police. He’s going to come and talk about his experience that day. I thought that was really special with having the piece of the Pentagon here.”

Another addition was a helmet from a Ladder 3 firefighter who perished, donated by his brother, to represent the 343 firefighters who died that day and the hundreds more who died in ensuing years from breathing in toxins during recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

Exhibits throughout the museum are continually being added to, said Mann, noting that many come from members of the military who fought in wars over the years, or from their families, noting that collections are curated by Ruth McSween.

“Everything we have is operable, everything we have is real, in here and outside. We have no replicas. They’re all functional,” said Mann.

An indoor exhibit and a memorial outdoors pay homage to K-9 members of the military.
“We want to highlight how much they’ve done for us. They’ve saved so many lives; it’s just amazing, they’re a special breed,” said Mann, referencing the Belgian Malinois.

Another exhibit features a replica of the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed during ‘Operation Neptune Spear’ by members of SEAL Team Six.

At the time, Mann, whose operational tours included two deployments with SEAL Team Five, and seven years with SEAL Team Six, was not on the mission but was at the command center as they focused on the compound.

“The boys went in and did the op; it was very, very successful. They had practiced for months and months,” said Mann. He added that the museum is trying to obtain the tail section of the helicopter that went down after clipping a wall during the mission.

“It was a huge operation,” said Mann. In answer to those who ask why the mission was undertaken by Navy SEALs, he said: “That was a command decision at the highest levels.”

Outdoors, one area is set aside as a Navy SEAL Museum Memorial. It consists of a Memorial Wall, etched with 308 names of the Frogmen from World War II to today’s SEALs who died in combat or training; a Living Beach, with sand from locations where they fought and died is contained in twin UDT scuba tanks; a Memorial Garden featuring flowers from around the world to represent the fallen; and a Naval Special Warfare K-9 Memorial, honoring Combat Assault Dogs killed in the line of duty.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee recently approved a bill to designate the Museum Memorial as a national memorial. It now awaits passage by the full House and Senate, before being given to the president for his signature.

For more information, visit navysealmuseum.org.

Photos by Kaila Jones

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