In light of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks last week, I want to share my experience visiting the 9/11 memorial museum at ground zero this summer.
My visit to New York City was a unique one, it was on my return to the USA from living in Taiwan for three years. I landed in the heart of the USA, NYC, to be reunited with my homeland once again. What a way to return to America!
After the initial excitement – all my neurons firing like explosions in my brain by simply looking at NYC, I set out to find the 9/11 museum. September 11th was the most prominent infamous historical event that happened in my lifetime. Being a somewhat frequent flyer, there is not an airport I pass through in which I don’t think of all those people having had an ordinary day at the airport, not knowing the fate they were walking into.
The 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero
First off, I spent some time walking the grounds. I went to ground zero where the 9/11 Memorial now lives. On the black stone were all the names listed of lives lost that day. And that black stone stretch on and on. The list of names seemed endless. The memorial is a fountain that endlessly pours water into the base. The symbolism of seeing that water endlessly feeding the ground in which so many people lost their lives was rather chilling. I had to put my hand in the water to feel somehow a part of this mark of devastating loss, and the humanity which was then built upon it.
Entering the Museum – Security
There were quite a few people in line to see the museum. The museum fee is $24. As I entered I saw a very familiar sight that I had seen at each airport I had just traveled through – security check, exactly like airport security check. This part of the museum is as symbolic to me as it is functional. In fact, when I first entered, I thought that was part of the museum experience. This event in history is the reason for our nowadays tight airport security. I was so intrigued I tried taking a photo. I was reprimanded by the (real) security guards.
“Ma’am, you can’t take any photos in here. If you took a photo you’re going to have to delete that immediately!”
Oops. Apparently, it wasn’t just a symbolic museum experience.
The Survivors’ Staircase
The museum was rather elaborate. Unfortunately, the most interesting exhibits were the ones in which photographs were not permitted. I was most interested in the artifacts. Early in the museum, you see the Survivors’ Staircase. The Survivors’ Staircase provided an escape route for the people in 5 World Trade Center, a small building adjacent to the twin towers.
Chilling Recordings of the Breaking News and Voicemails to Families
There was a harrowing clip of the today show breaking news. Matt Laurer was giving an interview to some author who wrote some book, and he interrupted the interview to reveal the breaking news that an airplane had hit the first tower. Breaking news of the moment the world stopped turning.
Another goosebumps inspiring moment was listening to a phone message a husband working in the second tower left for his wife on their machine at home. He was in the second tower, telling his wife there was a plane crash in the first tower, but that he was “safe” in the 2nd tower. Of course, we can deduce what was to happen to that husband.
No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time: Blue Sky Mosaic
Here is a huge mosaic of the color blue. Some artists were asked to paint the color of the sky their memory held of that day. This mosaic is all the various shades of blue different artists remembered that day. The colors are all slightly different, but the one thing they all have in common is – they were all a clear, bright, beautiful blue color representing the sky on that morning. It gives me chills thinking of the hope that bright blue sky suggested – and how that bright blue turned to gray dust in a matter of hours.
Eavesdropping on the conversation around me…
At one point I was standing in line waiting to see one of the films. There was a family behind me with a few kids. In that waiting hall, there were large photography prints of people who came in to help with the clean-up efforts after the towers had fallen. The mother was explaining to her kids that there was so much volunteer effort to help, and was listing people her children knew who had come out to help. It’s funny because NYC can be perceived as a somewhat soulless place by outsiders like me. Having grown up in rural Maine there are a lot strange and intimidating things people say about NYC, but then you see the outpouring of heart that was alive and beating strong by the survivors of this city. New Yorkers may not be that different from rural Mainers, or anyone from anywhere else in the world.
Replica of the Statue of Liberty
This is a replica of the Statue of Liberty that is adorned with photos, badges, and other memorabilia from the families of the victims of the tragedy. I am lucky enough that I didn’t know anyone personally who died that day, or any families or anything. However, I hope they know that seeing things like this gives the rest of us a sense of how real this tragedy was, and makes me hope for the healing and rebuilding of these families.