This speech was given by Ann’s Dad at the sneak preview opening of the Ann Nicole Nelson Hall on the campus of the Minot State University January 6, 2003.
Dr. Shaar, Dale Brown, Jenette, Dear Friends of Ann
Once upon a time Ann belonged only to me—to us. Now I discovered that Ann belongs to everyone in this room. She belongs to Stanley, the State of North Dakota, and this beloved country, the USA.
Before—regrettably, I probably would not have shared her, but now I recognize that Ann was abundantly gifted with love – to be shared. She possessed an unquenchable thirst for education. She exercised an unbridled zest to experience all what life had to offer. Most importantly, Ann was always grateful. She never failed to say thank you.
I know that today Ann is with us. She is pleased and she thanks you for another great experience. Now I would like to share a story about another hero. As you all remember, it was difficult traveling to New York during the aftermath of 9-11, particularly arranging a visit to Ground Zero. Fortunately North Dakota’s own US Congressman Earl Pomeroy, made arrangements with the Uniformed Firefighters Association of New York City #854 so that we could visit this hallowed ground where some 2,800 people perished. We were warned that we might not reach the site because of problems that had developed between N Y Fire Fighters and N Y City Police. The city had recently changed its policy from search and rescue to search and recovery so it was necessary that we, together with fire fighter Dennis Cumming, negotiate three police barricades in the final two blocks of reaching the site. When we finally got there- our moment frozen in time – we stood in total solemnity. There our daughter, Ann, had spent her last moments on earth on the 104th floor of tower #1. Jenette stepped forward to get a closer look when an ironworker emerged form the devastation, approached her, and asked if she had lost someone. “We lost our daughter,” she tearfully answered. He said, “hold your ground, I will be back.” The ironworker left and after 30 some minutes, returned from the smoke and rubble, carrying a cross, still hot to the touch, that he had cut from a ruined beam of steel.
Today, now approaching 14 months, we continue a search for our hero. We don’t even know his name.
Upon returning to Stanley, Dave Kulczyk, Jeanette’s brother and a bronze sculptor, suggested making a mold and casting exact replicas of this original cross. Today I would like to present Minot State a replica of this cross in memory of Ann.