Memorial-Ann Nelson Hall
A preview of The Ann Nicole Nelson Hall was held for supporters on Monday, January 6, 2003. The first symphony performance occurred on Saturday, February 2, 2003. Formerly George McFarland Auditorium, the concert hall in Old Main at Minot State University unveiled a new look along with the new name. Velvet and wood seats, an orchestra pit, state-of-the-art lightingsystem and gold decorative molding are just a few of the renovations. All fine-tuning will be done by June 2003. During a speech at the preview by Gary Nelson, he gave the university a replica of the iron cross given to him and Jenette at Ground Zero.
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 U.S. 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 NY Fire Fighters and NY 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 from 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.
Gary also gave a speech at the formal opening of the Ann Nicole Nelson Hall at the Minot Symphony's Homecoming Concert on February 1, 2003.
Dr. Shaar, Jenette and Friends of Ann, I was asked to share a few words with you tonight. This I will do on behalf of our entire family - my wife, Jenette, son Scott, his wife Dawn and their five children. I would like to thank Dr. Jenkins, Darla Weigel, Kim Thompson, and Sandy Norstrom for their exhaustive efforts in assisting me in preparing for this dedication.
Now I want to tell you a little about my Annie. I was there in the delivery room when she was born – that was 5-17-71 at 8:36 am. It was love at first sight. Throughout her life, we spent an inordinate amount of time together. I suppose there were times when she looked to me for that fatherly guidance.But it wasn’t long before I was caught up in her tail wind and our roles seemed to be reversed.
I was also there when Annie left this earth - in my home riveted to the morning news. That was 9-11-01 at 9:28 a.m. - the moment the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed - an event that robbed America of some of its brightest stars, and robbed from us our beloved daughter who would become my greatest teacher.
Now Ann’s physical presence is gone, but I know we can never be spiritually separated. That thought has strengthened me. It has enabled me to carry on with my life, and now I realize more than ever some of the things Ann stood for, and what she wanted to teach me. Ann loved more and was more loved than anyone I have ever known. I have learned that Ann’s most precious resource was love. It was the very foundation of her ability to nurture relationships - unifying her friends and family and often times total strangers.
Now Ann is teaching me how to recognize this love – to cultivate and expand my personal relationships with my friends, my family, and with my God.
I am assured that she found peace at the end of that fateful day. You see, she turned God’s way and she left it all - leaving us a void to fill with remembered joys and lasting relationships. That’s part of our reason for being here tonight - celebrating and dedicating a piece of her love that will forever bring people together. For Annie knew that you, her friends and her family were life’s greatest gifts to her, and now we have Annie’s Hall.