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Hurricanes amazed, reflect on Ground Zero visit

by Corey Masisak

Jamie McBain was in Spanish class at Shattuck-St. Mary's School when he first heard of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Eric Staal was at the billet of one of his American-born teammates with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League. Brian Boucher was in the dressing room with his Philadelphia Flyers teammates on the first day of training camp.

Everyone has a story, a memory of where they were on that day. For members of the Carolina Hurricanes, Wednesday was a day to remember the 9/11 attacks, but also to see how far Ground Zero has come.

The Hurricanes toured the World Trade Center site, complete with a ride to the top of 1 World Trade Center and a stroll through the recently opened 9/11 Memorial.

"It was pretty amazing just to be here at Ground Zero and then to be able to see the progress being made resurrecting this area," said Staal, Carolina's captain. "Then to be able to go up on the 77th floor and see the views and be in the open air and meet the workers who are trying to get this place back up and running was pretty awesome for everybody."


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Each member of the team had to be outfitted with a vest, hard hat and protective glasses for the tour through the active construction site. Bill Baroni, the Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, led the tour and briefed the Hurricanes on what they were about to see and what the entire 16-acre site will eventually look like when the project is completed.

Some of the facts the players learned included:

* There are 3,500 workers on site at any given point and 25,000 will have worked on the site by the time the project is complete.

* 1 World Trade Center is already the tallest building in New York City and will eventually, at 1,776 feet, be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere. It will also be two-and-a-half times taller than 7 World Trade Center, which is already completed and allowed the Hurricanes to compare just how much more there is build.

* Each foot of steel being used to construct 1 World Trade Center, which will be the strongest building in the world on record, weighs 3,000 pounds, and the concrete being used is seven times thicker than normal sidewalks.

"It is pretty amazing," Boucher said. "Like Bill was saying to us, people think nothing was going on here at this site for years, and obviously, seeing what has been up, that is not the case. A lot has been done. The resilience of the American people to build again and to build in the same place is amazing. It was a cool experience and I'm glad I got to see it."

The Hurricanes were able to walk through the construction site to the base of 1 World Trade Center, where they took an elevator up to the 35th floor. Players hopped out and starting snapping photos as one of the tour guides tried to assure them there would be better views at the next stop.

From there it was on to another elevator to the 77th floor, where the players were allowed to get out and walk the entire way around the building to check out some incredible views. They were also able to sign the steel columns with white magic markers -- something that everyone to take this special tour has been able to do.

The players were in two different elevators, but one group was privy to a special request from the Long Island born-and-raised elevator operator.

"I only have one request," he said before he started the elevator. "Just beat the Rangers."

"It was an amazing experience," McBain said. "I was actually here about two-and-a-half years ago and there wasn't much here. Now, to see the transformation into where it is at now and where it is going is pretty incredible."

McBain came to Ground Zero during the AHL all-star break with teammate Mike Murphy in 2008. Staal said this was his first time here. He also said his brother, Marc, has been trying to schedule a trip to the site but hasn't been able to yet.

"To be able to go up on the 77th floor and see the views and be in the open air and meet the workers who are trying to get this place back up and running was pretty awesome for everybody." -- Eric Staal

"I'll see him later," Staal said. "I saw him this morning and I told him I'd let him know what it was all about. They were talking about coming down here soon, him and his wife, but it hasn't happened yet."

After the trip to the top of 1 World Trade Center, the players were allowed to walk through the 9/11 Memorial that opened on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The names of all the victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania are part of the memorial, which includes two fountains where the footprints of the old towers used to be.

The Hurricanes players were shown the names of Los Angeles Kings scouts Mark Bavis and Garnet "Ace" Bailey, which are grouped together with the rest of the victims of United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the south tower.

"It is one of those things where people will always remember where they were and what was going on," McBain said. "Still to this day it is pretty crazy that something like that could happen, but to see where it is at and the rebuilding process is pretty special."

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