You can tell that the people who designed the layout and exhibits at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum were inspired in part by a very well done monument to another horrific tragedy – the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
Both museums expertly move you through a story that began with a normal morning on a normal day. People were going about their business, living their lives, dealing with mundane issues. As you see pre-attack photos, hear recordings, and read eyewitness accounts, the dread builds, because you know what is about to happen to them.
One of the art pieces created for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is lots of blue watercolors on square paper, based on the many survivor comments about how blue the sky was that day before the first plane hit. It surrounds a quote by Virgil that is forged out of metal salvaged from World Trade Center wreckage….
The design of the museum’s spaces takes you on a literal journey downward.
After a dramatic beginning in the museum lobby….
….you then descend on ramps that lead to the lower-level exhibits. The path makes you feel that you are descending into a little bit of the hell that people experienced in not only the 9/11 attack, but the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993 that killed six people.
At the bottom of the Museum is Foundation Hall, which includes an enormous section of the “slurry wall” – basically a huge basement to hold back the Hudson River – and the “Last Column” which was ceremoniously removed on May 30, 2002 as builders finished clearing out what was left of the Twin Towers, and started to rebuild.
I was struck by a giant piece of bent metal on display. It was a….
“Section of steel facade, North Tower, floors 96-99….located at the point of impact where highjacked Flight 11 pierced the building at the 93rd through the 99th floors.”
There are many rooms with photos, video, and recordings of the disaster, and also of the extensive rebuilding process. They can get a little crowded on a busy day, but be patient. There are also trigger warning signs – take them seriously. I personally actively avoided looking at anything about the “jumpers” or the Falling Man; just can’t handle it.
Outside of the Museum is the Memorial – two enormous reflecting pools where the North and South towers used to be.
There are waterfalls all around and in the middle (the largest man-made waterfalls in North America) with bronze panels on the edges that are inscribed with the names of the fallen from 2001 and 1993.
My family and I were living in the Netherlands at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and as much as we could, we kept our young kids shielded from the constant media coverage, including keeping the TV off at home. As a result, we didn’t experience 9/11 in quite the same way that many Americans in the U.S. did, and we’ve always felt a little detached from it as a result.
I’m very glad that we took our time going through the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, even though it was incredibly sad and painful, because they’ve done an excellent job of preserving this history and being as uplifting as possible about the aftermath.
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