Working toward 2013 opening for 9/11 museum

The historic "Last Column" (covered in white) is The historic "Last Column" (covered in white) is returned Aug. 24, 2009, for permanent installation in the 9/11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Getty Images

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The worn New York Giants T-shirt and Penn State baseball cap were among the prized possessions of Richard Caproni, a former North Babylon High School football captain known for his fierce team loyalties and booming laugh. Already, they are part of the permanent collection of the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum - a gift from his parents.

"What we donated were things very dear to Richie," his father, Richard Caproni, 67, a former North Babylon resident, said in a telephone interview from his home in Ocean Pines, Md. "They had significant meaning to us, but we knew it would be better to have it preserved there for eternity."

An underground project

Construction of the museum, as with many elements at the World Trade Center site, is behind schedule. But there has been progress, with officials working toward a 2013 opening.

The foundation work has been completed and some of the permanent artifacts - including the Survivors' Stairs and the Last Column recovered from the trade center rubble - were installed at the site in the past nine months.

Much of this can be hard to envision, because the museum, which will cover more than 100,000 square feet, is taking shape underground.

"It's like being in a house that has been framed," said museum director Alice Greenwald. "You can begin to feel what it will be like."

Once the museum is open, visitors will enter through a pavilion and descend to the exhibition space. There, they will find an interactive archive of images, oral histories and digitally stored artifacts accessed by computer. One planned exhibit, set within the footprint of the South Tower, will include a tribute to victims with names and pictures flashed on a wall 70 feet underground.

A large part of the experience will rely on the museum's collection of personal possessions from Sept. 11 victims, such as Caproni's shirt and cap, a woman's dust-covered purse and a charred firefighter's helmet.

Other items donated by Long Islanders include a St. Florian medal that belonged to Durrell Pearsall Jr., 38, of the FDNY's Rescue Squad 4 in Queens and a former Hempstead volunteer firefighter, who was killed on Sept. 11. A quilt from Boy Scout Pack 233 in Old Westbury dedicated to the victims also will be part of the exhibits.

Caproni's parents said they found the shirt and cap while packing up their son's home in Lynbrook.

LI native loved the Giants

Caproni, 34, who grew up in North Babylon and was an account specialist for the insurance firm Marsh & McLennan, died in One World Trade Center, the North Tower. He was a huge Giants fan, and, like his father, loved Penn State football.

His father said it was difficult for him and his wife, Dolores, 67, to part with their son's cherished possessions. Ultimately, in November, they decided to share something of him with the world.

"The whole idea of the memorial is to let people know about the beautiful people who were taken from their families," the father said.

>>See photos of Ground Zero today

>>Read about the reflecting pools memorial

>>Complete guide to September 11: Eight years later

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