Last week, I wrote about my emotional visit to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. It was a post that I sat on for a long time, not even sure how to begin to put my feelings into words. I realize that even thirteen years later, 9/11 still feels in some way like yesterday and the fear, emotions and horror of that day still remain vivid and raw within my soul. I didn’t lose anyone close to me that day. But many people around the world did. It is a day that we all would rather forget but can’t and should not.
Seeing the newly opened 9/11 Memorial Museum was very hard. It left me numb after walking through the remains of life and civilization within the very foundation where the two Twin Towers once stood. Yet, I will argue that it is a place that everyone should see and also that although the content and stories shared within the museum walls are tragic it also is done with hope, pride and resilience. A remembrance of the thousands of innocent and brave people who lost their lives that day and the ones that still remain alive.
Perhaps the most powerful room of all inside the 9/11 Museum is the room called “In Memoriam”. Inside this room hangs photographs and stories of each of the 2,983 people killed in the September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 attacks. No photos are allowed. It is complete silence. It is a room that I will never forget.
As you descend down the escalator into the atrium where the museum begins, the first thing you see is the stark, metallic Tridents that were part of the original towers. You realize how powerful these buildings once were and what the impact must have been like to make them collapse.
As I rode down the escalator I was gripped with the uncomfortable realization that the museum was located inside the actual footprints of where the North and South Tower laid. Similar to the memorial outside, the museum was held within the foundations of the two towers with a large Memorial Hall connecting the two together.
I became tense wondering what to expect within the walls of the museum.
I see this sign upon the wall and take a deep breath remembering why I am here. To learn. To feel. To heal. And to remember.
“Beyond the compelling need to make this a monument to world peace, the World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a living representation of man’s belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and through this cooperation his ability to find greatness.”
-Minoru Yamasaki, World Trade Center Architect, 1964
I see the first photograph opening the museum and a floodgate of memories and emotions.
And I wonder how I’m going to make it through the museum.
Then I saw all of the artifacts that were saved from the wreckage or miraculously left standing like the “Last Column”. As the recovery at the World Trade Center site neared completion, one piece of steel remained (the last column) and was chosen to mark the occasion symbolically. After its dedication ceremony, recovery workers, first responders, volunteers and victims’ families signed it leaving messages and tributes.
“The museum attests to the triumph of human dignity over human depravity, and affirms an unwavering commitment to the fundamental value of human life”. – 9/11 Memorial Museum
The further you walk through the remains of the North and South Tower, the quieter it gets. Despite the large crowds within the museum, there is silence. Perhaps everyone is just as emotionally numb and raw as me. Or else words seemed to escape the memory.
There are signs of hope like the “Survivor Stairs”, the staircase that once connected the northern edge of the World Trade Center’s Austin J. Tobin Plaza to the Vesey Street sidewalk below. On 9/11, the stairs provided an unobstructed exit for hundreds seeking escape. To reach the stairs, many had to cross the Plaza beneath treacherous, unimaginable debris falling from the North Tower.
One wall contains the work of photographer Stephane Sednaoui who felt compelled to help out in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and entered the “Frozen Zone” – the restricted area below 14th Street in Manhattan – on September 12 joining a grew of volunteers working inside Ground Zero. On three different nights he worked in various locations helping out where needed and documenting the effort on film. His powerful photographs were incredible.
The North Tower exhibitions are increasingly difficult to see. All reminders of the lives that were lost in such a horrendous way.
There were some parts of the museum that reminded me of how much love was lost. I thought this quilt was spectacular and deeply touching.
The most difficult part of the museum lies within the “Historical Exhibition”. There, you walk through a minute by minute run-through of the events that happened on 9/11. No photographs are allowed. No recording. Just respect. Deep sadness and silence.
Hope that we will never live to see a day as horrendous and tragic as 9/11.