Remembering The Victims- My Experience At The 9/11 Memorial Museum
To be honest I’m not sure how to start this blog. Like most people, I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. I was sitting in Mrs. Farmer’s 7th grade English class about to turn in a homework assignment on Boo Radley, a detail I would’ve never remembered had the events of that day not transpired.
I moved to New York in February of 2014. The first time I walked past the fire station on my block I noticed a series of “In Memory Of” plaques lining the brick exterior. I was intrigued, but not enough to slow down and examine the details. It wasn’t until the following 9/11 that I began to understand why I should have.
I hustled out the door that morning. I could see in the distance that fire trucks had blocked off a large portion of Tenth Ave. As I approached the station I realized why. The families of those men on the plaques were there, placing flowers and cards in front of the station. It sent chills down my spine. It still does. Until that point, 9/11 had been about what I had seen on TV- the wars, the terrorism, the destruction. It wasn’t about the everyday people who got fucked over by a group of psychos.
This past Saturday I went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I arrived at 9:00AM and the line was already wrapped around the building. Once inside, I exchanged my license for an iPad and began the Robert De Niro narrated audio tour. The initial entry was underwhelming. There were pictures of the buildings and a small metal sculpture that stood in the courtyard between the north and south towers. I rounded the corner and descended into a massive room called the Foundation Hall. Sixty-foot tall slabs of the original World Trade Center foundation were displayed alongside a quote from Virgil.
The blue pieces of paper represent the color of the sky at the time of the attack.
We continued on and entered a room filled with pictures of all 2,753 people killed in the WTC attacks. What struck me most was how happy they looked. Everyone was smiling. Blissfully unaware of what was to come. I couldn’t help but think of those people outside the fire station. How different their lives would be if their loved ones never went to work that day. Children would have parents, families would be complete. Birthday parties and weddings would be a cause for celebration not a painful trip down memory lane. People of every age, ethnicity, religion and political affiliation were represented in that room. A perfectly diverse slice of America.
After that, we made our way to the area where the emergency equipment was displayed. This is the front of a fire truck that had been struck by debris.
In person it was frightening. You could tell people were taken aback. Unlike the pictures, this was tangible. Dust was still on the doors. Audio of a dispatcher played overhead “it’s not looking good for ladder three.” There were other pieces of bruised machinery on display: car doors, EMS vehicles, fire trucks. There were bicycles covered in soot next to cases of mangled tools.
We made our way past the debris and into a room full of personal effects. The most human items- burnt and on display. Scissors, a rolodex, wallets, pictures, shoes, a wrist watch.
Items that belonged to people. The room was silent. The only sounds were of monitors playing the TV broadcasts of that day. Matt Lauer on NBC, “I have got to interrupt you right now…we are going to go live right now and show you a picture of the World Trade Center where I understand…do we have it?” Although, the most difficult part of the tour for me were the voicemails. Messages from loved ones recovered after the attack. I picked up a phone and listened. Each message more urgent than the last. It was gut wrenching.
It would take days to go through the entire museum. Each exhibit is meticulously laid out to honor and remember those who had lost their lives. To pay tribute to the families and friends of those affected. It was a fantastic display despite the horrific subject matter.
The further away we get from that day the more inclined we are to forget. That’s why it’s important to keep their memories alive. I encourage anyone who visits New York to go check out the museum, especially our younger readers. It’s not fun or exciting but it will change the way you think of 9/11.
Was this a sad blog? Yes. But sometimes it’s important to put things in perspective. There’s a lot of shit going on in the world and it’s easy to get discouraged. But if you really think about it, we have it pretty good. And if these people can trudge through and push on despite having lived through a nightmare then so can we. So today when you’re watching the ever-shrinking coverage 9/11, try to remember the people who lived it and the families who struggle every day. God bless.