Echoes of Loss – 9/11 Memorial Museum Opening Day

I descended several stories into the heart of ground zero, along with friends, throngs of tourists, and somber-faced locals, as the 9/11 National Memorial Museum officially opened its doors today.

The museum, nestled next to memorials that mark the base of the original twin towers, completes the memorial complex with an underground hall that includes a memorial exhibit paying respect to the victims of the attacks and a historical exhibit that presents the events of September 11th and the circumstances that led to that day.

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The WTC complex’s original slurry wall. (A 3′ thick concrete wall surrounding the original World Trade Center, designed to keep the complex from being flooded by the Hudson River.)

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New York Fire Department’s Ladder Company 3 fire truck that was destroyed during the attacks of 9/11.

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EMS Battalion 17 ambulance was destroyed during the 9/11 attacks. The vehicle was found at the intersection of Vesey and West Streets.

 

The events of 9/11 unfolded for me as it did for most people who experienced it from afar – flipping through CNN, Fox News, or virtually every station, glued to news anchors sharing the same utter mouth-open shock that canvased my own face.  Living in Pittsburgh, but originally from the New York City metro area, the 350 miles of highway between me and my family back east was gut-wrenching.

Fast forward nearly thirteen years later, those emotions clawed their way to the forefront.  The experience was pretty profound – museum corridors echoing with voicemail messages of those who perished.  Ravaged ambulances, fire trucks, steel beams, and aircraft debris.  But, what I truly found overwhelming were the personal artifacts – bloody shoes, a mostly burnt frame with a photo of a child in a Halloween costume, partially melted credit cards, a Blockbuster membership card, a ticket for the PATH train, and notes scribbled on notebook paper.

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World Trade Center Cross.

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The last beam, column #1001B of Two World Trade Center, that was removed from ground zero.

 

After nearly three hours of exhibit viewing, I returned to ground level and paused at the south tower’s massive reflecting pool while my mind grappled with words like solemn, pain, respect, shock, and remembrance.  All of these sum up my 9/11 Memorial Museum experience.  The museum pays respect not only to victims and their families, it encapsulates the experiences that we shared as a country during 9/11.  Perhaps even more importantly, the museum focuses a spotlight on the human compassion that emerged after 9/11 as we helped each other heal.

Post Vitals:
9/11 Memorial Museum
http://www.911memorial.org/museum

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