Spaces where once stood buildings thriving with business, now hold two symbols of remembrance and hope.
The first time I visited the 9/11 Memorial, the massiveness of the twin pools and the endless number of inscribed names made a numbness crawl sickly over my body until it remained, an unsettled squirming, in my stomach.
You cannot pass by with a mind free of what once stood there and the events which happened such a short, yet long, time ago.
I didn’t need to go in the museum. I’d lived it. In newspaper articles, in classroom discussions, in continually surfacing information as time carried our days past September 11th, 2001.
When a coworker and friend of Lance’s planned a guided tour of the museum, I didn’t resist. It wasn’t a matter of not wanting to see it, it was a matter of not thinking I needed to see it.
I did, in true to myself fashion, protest the guided tour, confused as to why we would pay extra for someone to walk around the museum telling us things we: 1.) could read and 2.) already knew.
I didn’t know a voice in my ear reminding me of details I’d forgotten or seeing these things close enough to touch would have as powerful an impact as it did.
A reverent, unspoken hush passed from visitor to visitor upon descending the escalators and beginning the tour.
The starting point is a photo taken by photographer David Monderer who waited for the perfect day to photograph lower Manhattan from Brooklyn and did so at 8:30 am on 9/11. Under an hour later, he would take another photograph shortly after the South Tower was struck.
The visual reminder of the perfect weather starting the day of September 11th sets the tone for the rest of the tour.
I took many pictures, but don’t want to share too much from within the walls of the museum.
All Americans need to feel it, touch it, walk it, relive it. We can sit at home and say we know the impact of these terrorist attacks, that we hate what happened, that we will never forget, but to look them in the face is a difference experience altogether.
The pace and mood of our guide carried the solemn atmosphere the entire building held. We followed him to stand at the epicenter of the 1993 bomb blast, the first terrorist attempt to destroy the twin towers. Their intent was to create an explosion causing Tower One to fall into Tower Two.
Though unsuccessful, they still caused six deaths, hundreds of injuries, and a massive power outage directly affecting radio and television stations.
Every item in the museum needed approval to be considered and saved as historical artifacts. One item many petitioned for placement in the museum is what is now called the Survivor Stairs. Originally two outdoor flights of stairs, these steps remained the last visible structure above ground level at the site. They provided an escape to a countless number of people otherwise trapped. Even with access to this exit, the people using these stairs moved among potentially fatal falling debris to their freedom.
The front end of a fire engine
When the tour ended, I thought we were finished, but our guide directed us to the self-guided historical exhibition with even more intimate artifacts than those seen during our tour.
I didn’t personally know anyone who died or sacrificed their life on September, 11th, 2001, yet I left feeling as though I was leaving a funeral of a dear family member. The day impacted some greater than others, yet we all felt the sting.
Every American needs to walk through this museum once in their life. While those of us closer to New York grapple with the closeness to home of these events, those in states further away need this encounter even more to better know its reality.
Walking through the museum made it real once again, realer than any news coverage or even two pools resting in lieu of buildings could.
9/11 Memorial & Museum
180 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007