Local 9/11 survivor helps with national memorial

September 4, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Keating Crown lives in Chicago with his wife, but on September 11, he was in New York, working for Aon. He was on the 100th floor of the South Tower when the North Tower was hit. He immediately started to evacuate, and made it to the 78th floor before the second plane crashed into South Tower.

"It was a massive explosion. The same smoke that was seen outside the building was seen inside the building also, but I happened to be in one square-foot that I was able to survive the impact and then escape," Crown said.

Crown says he is one of 12 survivors from the 78th floor. He escaped down a stairwell.

"I remember it also being very orderly. The stairwells were clear of smoke, water and fire. People acted just as they were taught in grade school -- to follow single file in an orderly fashion and evacuate," Crown said.

Crown's left leg was broken. He was cut and bruised.

"What I think about today is the paramedics and doctors that helped me on the ground up until my ambulance pulled away and our building collapsing shortly thereafter, and they didn't make it," Crown said.

That day, which is in the fabric of his being, has defined what he's doing 10 years later.

"I was very fortunate. I was very lucky, and that's why today I spend my time helping to deliver a memorial that is going to honor those lives that were lost and reflect on them," Crown said.

Crown is on the board for the National September 11 Memorial, which will be unveiled on the 10th anniversary. Two reflecting pools, each nearly an acre large, are within the footprint of where the Twin Towers once stood; the names of those who died edge the pools. The waterfalls are the largest man-made ones in North America.

The memorial and future museum, which is expected to open next year, sit on a 16-acre site.

"We're hoping the memorial will be a serene, comfortable place for people to come back and remember and reflect," Crown said.

In Chicago, Crown is part of a movement to support the September 11 Memorial. Businesses, like On Your Mark gym in the West Loop, have stickers on their windows outside. Inside, there's more to the effort. On September 10th, 100 percent of the class fees and proceeds from a silent auction will be donated to the memorial. Crown has been a member at the gym for more than three years.

"Anytime someone is so passionate about spreading the word and being on board and taking control of situations like that, and not thinking of about yourself, thinking about everyone involved, it's so contagious, and he's doing a great job and it has definitely caught on to us," said Annette Fiscelli, On Your Mark co-owner.

Chicago restaurants, like Tavern on Rush, also support the memorial.

"Seeing the stickers in windows now as I walk around is wonderful to see. It shows people in Chicago or elsewhere, in the country, in the world, haven't forgotten," Crown said.

And along with raising awareness about the memorial, Crown says donations will help maintain it for years to come. He looks forward to seeing the memorial when the time is right.

"My wife and I are setting our roots in Chicago. Chicago is special to us, but New York remains a special place," Crown said. "I look forward to going back there with my family, to the site, once it's open, and reflecting and remembering colleagues and remembering what people around the world went through that day."

Crown added: "I think it's critical we all continue to remember and push on."

Crown is visiting New York City right now, and even though he's a board member for the memorial, he says he's not going to the ceremony on September 11th. He says the families of those who died should be the first to see the site.

The memorial will be unveiled September 11, and it opens to the public September 12.

For more information about how you can donate to the National September 11 Memorial & Musuem, visit www.911memorial.org/donations.

Coming up on ABC7's news at 10 p.m. Monday is "9/11 10 years later: The Pentagon." ABC7's Cheryl Burton has the story of how one family is honoring the memory of their daughter.

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