Contemplate America’s dark moment at 911 Museum

A fire engine destroyed in the attack on the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001 is one of the artifacts on display at the 911 Memorial & Museum. Photos by Gale Horton Gay

A fire engine destroyed in the attack on the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001 is one of the artifacts on display at the 911 Memorial & Museum. Photos by Gale Horton Gay

It might not sound like a great way to spend one’s time when visiting New York City, but going to the 911 Memorial & Museum should top any “must-see” list.

It is a stunningly beautiful building and its multi-media exhibits are presented in a way that captures the history, loss, heroism and humanity of what happened on one of the most significant dates in modern America.

Located on eight of the 16 acres of the World Trade Center site, the Memorial and Museum remember and honor the 2,983 people who were killed in the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993. It also pays homage to the survivors, first responders and “those who acted with extraordinary compassion in the aftermath.”

“The Memorial plaza design consists of two reflecting pools formed in the footprints of the original twin towers surrounded by swamp white oak trees,” states background information from the museum. “The Museum displays more than 900 personal and monumental objects while its collection includes more than 60,000 items that present intimate stories of loss, compassion, reckoning and recovery linked to the events of 9/11 and the aftermath. The Museum also explores the global impact of 9/11 and its continuing significance through education programs, public programs, live talks and film features that cover contemporary topics designed for diverse audiences.”

 

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The experience starts at the outdoor memorial where two reflecting pools—each one acre in size—are surrounding by 30-foot waterfalls and the names of all of those who died at the site.

Once inside, visitors first encounter “The Tridents,” two 80-foot tall steel columns that once formed part of the exterior facade of the North Tower.

One descends into the belly of the museum where, to the extent possible, original steel column bases and concrete footings that supported the Twin Towers are exposed. Even the ramp leading into the lower level of the structure is significant. It’s described as a “nod” to the construction of the original World Trade Center and the means by which recovery efforts and debris removal were made following the attacks.

Memorial Hall, situated between the North and South Tower footprints, bares the “No day shall erase you from the memory of time” quote that stretches across a wall framed by an art installation of various shades of blue tiles (each representing one of the lost souls) entitled “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning.”

One passes the Survivors’ Stairs, which were one of the means people used to attempt to flee the one of the towers, before reaching the main September 11, 2001 historical exhibition. It explores the occurrences of the day, what led to the attacks and the immediate afteremath. 

Near the footprint of the South Tower Excavation site are remnants of the steel box column that anchored the Twin Towers to bedrock along with an exhibition of the original construction of the World Trade Center.

“In Memoriam” is described as a “quiet, contemplative space” to honor and share details about the 2,983 people killed in the 2001 and 1983 attacks at the site.

I wasn’t prepared to be as emotionally affected as I was by a visit to the memorial and museum.  The longer I walked through the museum with its subdued lighting, photos of those who died, recordings of doomed individuals’ voice messages left for their loved ones, artifact after artifact from the tragedy and recollections of survivors, the more I was saddened and brought to tears. 

This museum and memorial likely provide something new to learn and feel with each visit and compel visitors to come again.

Tickets range from $15-$24. For more information or to purchase a ticket to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, visit 911memorial.org. 

 

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