This is not a trip for the faint of heart. The 9/11 Memorial Museum transports visitors immediately back to that day and also pays tribute to victims and heroes of the 1993 attack. Despite living pretty close to the city and making several visits to lower Manhattan over the last decade, I have skirted around this spot. My husband came through the trade center subway hub that morning but was one of the lucky ones. It’s a personal thing but you have to be ready for the visit.
Upon arriving, my first challenge was visualizing that these two peaceful, mournful and beautiful fountains fill the exact footprint of the former trade center buildings. My husband thought the areas looked enormous, however, I actually thought they seemed smaller than I had anticipated. The trade center buildings were vast inside so maybe these opened spaces deceived me, especially when considering how many souls were lost within their perimeters. The names engraved and lining the smooth stone edges of both fountains are endless and upsetting.
It is an intense experience starting at the fountains and increasing dramatically as you proceed through the equivalent of airport security to enter the museum. Inside, my first impression was that I was encountering an onslaught of twisted metals. You just can’t imagine the dimensions and damage of the steel beams, columns, foundations, communications equipment and even fire engines, until you are standing in front of or under them. There is even a portion of the Vesey Street or “Survivors” stair remnants. Welcoming visitors to the lower level is a magnificent blue mosaic wall with a powerful statement by Virgil — “No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time”, that sent all of us fleeing into our own thoughts.
In addition to artifacts, the museum has done an incredible job using photography to illustrate where and how the items on display existed before the attacks.
For me, the dramatic culmination of my visit was stepping into what I would call the media room. Here you see and hear broadcast reports from 9/11, see footage of the actual attacks, and the immediate resulting activity including people covered in dust crying and running with falling buildings in the background. On view are our nation’s news anchors and previously less seen reporters from around the world, coming apart with emotion. We all have heard much of it repeatedly, but not woven together like this and playing simultaneously. You may feel like you are suffocating with grief again.
Make sure you and your kids are ready for this excursion but know that it is worth it — it’s a powerful reminder for adults and a graphic illustration for kids too young to remember or for those not even alive in 2001, why America was drawn into our now continuous struggle against terrorism.
Do not wear eye make-up and do bring tissues. You may also want to plan to do something cheerful after this visit — dine at an upbeat restaurant or just order a strong drink.