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On 20th Anniversary of 9/11 Sharing My Visit to 9/11 Memorial and Museum

There are three places I’ve been I wish every American could visit:  Philadelphia, Normandy American Cemetery and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  Philadelphia is where is this country was born.  The other two are hallowed grounds.  In the Normandy American Cemetery, there are graves of 9,386 of our military servicemen who idied during the Allied liberation of France in World War II.  The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a place perserving history and honoring the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001.  It also honors those killed in the World Trade Center bombing on February 26, 1993.

On a beautiful early December day in 2018 with a sky similiar to that September day that forever changed America, two friends and I visited this place of solemn reflection while on a girls holiday shopping trip in New York City.  I knew it would be a hard visit and I would likely re-live the events of that horrific day as we’re all doing today on the 20th anniversary.  It was one of those moments in life where you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing as the horror unfolded before our eyes.

Once a vibrant part of usually bustling lower Manhattan, the 9/11 Memorial is on eight acres of the 126-acre World Trade Center complex.  As I walked up to the pools and saw some of the 2,983 name after name on the bronze parapets, I went into a deep contemplation remembering the tragedy and saying a prayer for each name I read.  Each of the two pools are nearly an acre in size.  They are in the footprints of where the North and South Towers were rising high into the New York skyline.

We went on a guided 60-minute tour in the museum.  As we descend the ramp to the exhibition halls 70 feet underground, the Survivors’ Stairs at the end of the ramp took my breath away.  The staircase was at the edge of elevated World Trade Center Plaza.  More than 1,000 survivors fled down those stairs to safety on September 11th, 2001.  I was at a loss for words seeing the mangled steel beams from the point of impact in North Tower and the missing posters of so many.  As we entered Foundation Hall, our guide Patrick said, “There’s a haunting presence of where we are.”

Memorial Hall is in between the footprint of the Twin Towers.  I stopped at the art installation Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning.  The quote by Virgil “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”  Artist and blacksmith Tom Joyce forged the quote using recovered World Trade Center steel.  It is surrounded by a panoramic mosaic of shades of blue.  Artist Spencer Finch used an eye dropper and chronometer to create different shades of blue on the paper panels representing each of the 2,983 lives lost of 9/11 and in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

In the Foundation Hall I was deeply moved by the 36-foot Last Column with pictures, notes and momentos on it.  It was the final steel beam ceremonially removed from Ground Zero after the nine-month recovery effort.  There’s a mangled segment of the communication antenna and Ladder Company 3 truck crushed by collapse of North Tower.  It was almost unfamothable to think about the 1.8 million pounds of debris.  There’s a large section of the “slurry wall,” which was a concrete retaining wall to hold back water from nearby Hudson River when the site was first excavated in the mid-1960s.  When to towers collapsed, the wall remained intact.  Our guide commented, “The wall wanted to hold.”

From there we went unguided into the September 11, 2001 Historical Exhibition.  There are no pictures allowed and you go at your own pace walking through the three sections of the day of 9/11, what led up to it, and aftermath including rescue and recovery.  As I entered the first thing I heard the voices of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer on the Today Show, just as I had the morning of September 11, 2001.

Afterwards, we stopped again by one of the pools and went into the lobby of the World Center Oculus nearby.  It was designed to be a symbol of light shining bright after the darkness of an unthinkable tragedy.

If you are in New York try to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  It’s is not an easy travel stop, but it is one of deep meaning and remembrance.  On the 20th Anniversary I said multiple prayers for the crews and travelers on the United and American Airlines flights, the people who were likely sipping their first cup of coffee at their desks, and the first responders who ran in to help.

3 thoughts on “On 20th Anniversary of 9/11 Sharing My Visit to 9/11 Memorial and Museum

    • Thanks Diana! Wanted to do something in my own way to remember and thought it was time to share my experience at Memorial and Museum. It’s incredibly moving if you haven’t been.

      • I’ve been to One World Trade Center and the Memorial but we didn’t have time to go into the museum. I would like to one day though.