Tour of Museums: Meditations at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum

The memorial plaza

It was drizzling softly on the morning of my visit to the 911 Memorial and Museum.

The memorial pool

I had arrived in New York City six days previously, and found an inhospitably cold city in late March, when elsewhere Spring had arrived in blazes. Bundled up in two jackets and feeling not the most fashion-forward among chic New Yorkers, I had braved the cold alone, commuting via the Metro all the way from Rockaway Boulevard in Queens, and arrived a little early for the Museum’s opening at 10 am. A silent and respectful crowd was gathered around the memorial plaza, while others were spending a few meditative minutes by the memorial pool. Passing my gaze around where the names of the thousands dead were immortalized in black marble, and expecting to spot a Filipino-sounding name, I had felt a chill in my bones.

This was Ground Zero.

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum

When the museum opened at exactly ten o’clock, many of us went to line up at the gate. Getting past the museum entrance was not unlike getting on board a plane. The whirr of X-ray machines, people barking orders to remove this belt and that jacket, was a small victory and made me think of the hurdles everyone wishing to board an aircraft is subjected. This was the only museum I had gone to which required it. (Getting to the top of the Empire State building was a close second.) But because I had arrived a little early, and warned beforehand to rid my purse of non-essentials, I had cleared “airport security” fairly easily. (Aside. One advantage of being early is enjoying the museum before the crush of tourists arrived, which they did in the early afternoon. A New York City Pass, which I had availed of to save on lines and expense, did not really save me from lining up.)

Photo gallery: Inside the 9/11 Museum

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The first harrowing sight that greets visitors of the museum is a view of the floor below, where one finds the slurry wall that protected Manhattan from the Hudson River, a fireman’s ladder that stands mutely in the center of the room below, an artifact left by the first responders to the tragedy that they too fell victims to. The floor below is in soft, muted lights, adding to the gloom and doom I had sensed upon arriving.

Near the entrance, this top view of the floor below is a visitor’s first taste of the 911 tragedy.

Through 15-minute movie screenings, video presentations, voice-overs in dedicated rooms, visitors can expect to have a grasp of the happenings on that fateful day in September, 2001. Narratives, poignant, tragic, and horrendous, are provided by, for example, articles of clothing, shoes, bags, confetti, and other debris that floated down from the air from exploded planes; recorded phone calls of people inside burning buildings before becoming silent; interactive shot of air traffic prior to the command to ground all planes, even the recorded message of an astronaut who happened to be the only American not on earth on 9/11: “And tears don’t fall the same in space.”


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