Visiting The National September 11 Memorial Museum
By Shari Hartford
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I found myself at the very wrong place, at the very wrong time. At 8:46 a.m. I was walking through the shopping plaza in the World Trade Center on my way to the subway that would take me, as it did every single day, to my office uptown. I lived (and still do) across the street from those massive towers and spent the better part of each day walking through them, around them and gazing up at them.
Fast forward to this past week, when I got to tour the National September 11 Memorial Museum. Not yet open to the public, these were preview days set aside for family members, rescue workers, survivors and community residents (among others). My friend and fellow neighbor, Gale, and I got the passes and, with much trepidation, and pockets full of tissues, walked past the outdoor reflecting pools set in the footprints of the North and South towers and entered the museum.
Nothing could have prepared us for the massive, vast and overwhelming scale of the interior. Upon entering, you descend…first down a ramp which leads to the original foundation level of the Twin Towers and further down long escalators until we were at the level of the slurry wall, built to keep the Hudson River from flooding the original site.
There are so many memorable, and haunting, images and artifacts. For those of us who were there and lived through that fateful day and have been living through the rebuilding, some were extremely difficult to process and others just left us in awe. A piece of the radio and television antenna that stood on the North Tower, an elevator motor, a crushed fire truck left us in awe. I had never seen The Today Show broadcast as they tried, in a live broadcast, to explain what was happening in New York City. There are many tapes of actual broadcasts made that day. I finally saw them at the museum.
“Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning,” a 40-foot high soaring piece of art by Spencer Finch was devastating. Composed of 2,983 squares of Italian paper, each one hand-painted a different shade of blue and each in memory of an individual soul lost on September 11 and in the 1983 bombing. This, for me, sums up the museum’s experience. In its simplicity, the art speaks to the poignancy of the museum. If you visit and retain only one thing, let it be this. Stand and gaze at this wall and without needing words, the magnitude of the events of both days will crash into your heart and mind and will stay there for a very long time.
For more information, see 911memorial.org.
Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.