The 9/11 Memorial Museum: what to expect
We all have our own memories of that day. I was teaching in a school 40 miles away, but I remember seeing the darkened sky and the fear on everyone’s faces as parents came to take their children home from school that day.
Memories about this tragic attack on our country is a wound we will never completely heal from. After 18 years, it still brings tears to my eyes and is one of those things that we need to remember.
Be warned, you must be prepared for what you will see and how you will feel.
I had been to the site 5 years ago when they opened the twin memorial ponds, in the footprint of the two towers, with the names of the killed inscribed in bronze around the ponds. At the time, white tents guarded the area, you needed to book reservations in advance just to enter the area and the museum had not yet been completed.
This cold winter day we visited the outdoor memorial ponds. Not too many people were visiting. The wind was too strong for the waterfalls, but the tradition of placing white roses on the names of the deceased for their birthday was touching.
We purchase the $24 tickets for the museum. Security is intense, like boarding an airline. You can rent headsets or apps on your phone to listen to a narrative for an additional charge. We opted not to do that.
After descending several stories we arrived at the ground floor. Visible on the sides is the water wall holding back the Hudson River that was built when the Twin Towers construction started back in the early 1970s.
Having no direction, we wandered solemnly around the stark and steel design. The audio playing is the voices of family or friends remembering their loved ones by stating their names, which is done each year on September 11th.
One section tells about the building of the World Trade Center. Apparently it wasn’t well received back in the early 70’s as the structure was unattractive. One quote on the wall says it reminded him of a box of staples.
Next area was dedicated to the steelworkers; the Mohawks. Photos of the men who worked on the towers is presented, as well as scenes from Phillippe Petit who walked a tightrope across the Twin Towers in 1974.
One room is dedicated to the photographs of the 2,977 individuals killed as a result of the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the plane crash in Pennsylvania and the 6 individuals killed in the terrorist bombing in 1993 at the Twin Towers.
The area under the blue lights is where artifacts and videos and more are located. Photos are not permitted. You enter the room to the many television news stories revealing the story of that tragic day as it happened. A time line is available to see how it all unfolded. More audio as phone calls from people trapped in the towers are heard, left on loved ones answering machines. You pass through photos and video.
By the time I reached the small section with a warning that it would be hard to see due to the tragic nature of people jumping to their end, I needed to sit because I felt so ill. But I kept walking. I needed to do that for them. This needs to be remembered and that was why I was here.
As you round the corner you begin to see the signs people posted for their missing loved ones. Very few successful rescues actually happened after that day. You see the rescue efforts done by so many brave and tireless souls. Exiting you notice the identification of the terrorists and what was done after 9/11 to prevent another attack.
After walking through that section we did sit down and take a few moments of silence and reflection.
We all have a story to tell about where we were on September 11, 2001.
During our reading teacher meeting before school that morning, one of the secretaries interrupted to let us know that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. I was supposed to be testing students on this 5th day of school, but I had a radio in my reading room. This was before the days of internet and smartphones, so I listened all morning. I heard panicked reports of the 2nd plane deliberately hitting the 2nd tower. The voices saying we were under attack. I heard the radio broadcasters report that the Pentagon had been hit and that the first and then the second tower had collapsed. How many people had been in those towers I worried.
That afternoon I greeted my afternoon Kindergarten class. Some children came in and told me about planes crashing into buildings that they had seen on T.V. Many children came in innocent. They, like me, had not seen those images, yet.
Parents lined up at the school as the day went on to take their children home. No one knew what was happening. As I left the building at 3:45, I could see the darkened sky toward the west of my parking spot.
When I arrived at day care to pick up my children, the day care provider, with tears in her eyes, prompted my kids to give mommy a hug. She needed one.
My newly widowed mom came over and together we watched the news and exiled my kids to a nearby playroom. Later my mom revealed that 9/11 was a turning point for her. She had been devastated and sad that my dad was gone, but these young people who lost their lives that day was so unfair. She had had a good life with her husband. She had raised a family and loved a man for almost 40 years. This was unimaginable. So many young families impacted. She became determined to be grateful for what she had and look for Joy in her life after the loss of her husband. WIDOW TO WIDOW – Advice on dating and moving forward from my mom
A few days later, we went to meet the teacher night for my 3rd grader. She told us that tragically one of the boys in the class had lost his father on 9/11. He was a New York City fire fighter. She encouraged us to attend the funeral. The funeral was at our church so we did attend. The crowd was overwhelming. We had to stand outside on the lawn. Police and Fireman stood 3-4 deep for almost half a mile before the church. A firetruck stopped in front of the church and a coffin was carried into the building. My son’s classmate followed his mom, wearing his father’s helmet.
Six months later, my family made a change too. I wanted my children close to me. We bought a house in my school district so that when my youngest started Kindergarten he was in my building. That made me happy.
Visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum is not a fun walk in the park, but it is well done and worth the experience. Just brace yourself and then prepare for a nice treat, like lunch at Fraunces Tavern, a unique location that served as a headquarters for George Washington during the American revolution. Or maybe catch a show like Hamilton on Broadway that evening. Read here for my thoughts on that performance. But definitely go. You will not be disappointed.