Poignant. Somber. Sobering.
The last time I had been a tourist in NYC was a few months before September 11, 2001. Although the next trip was two years after that tragic day; we were in the city for a family wedding, not for sightseeing. I got off easy that trip, but knew the next trip would include a trip to Ground Zero.
There are two parts: the memorial, which is outdoors and free to the public and the museum, which lies between site of the original twin towers and charges admission.
Entering the museum at 9 a.m. on a Friday, we avoided the crowds. We purchased our tickets at the window outside, only waiting in line behind a few people. Tip: You can purchase tickets 3 months in advance. We didn’t do this because we purchased a Groupon good for a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. It turned out the Groupon was for the 9/11 Tribute Center – a completely separate entity. More about the Tribute Center at the end of this post.
A light-filled atrium area with a security checkpoint greeted us. Multiple glass panes are built around two original tridents that were part of the North Tower facade. Descending the escalators into the main part of the museum, a reverent silence filled the air.
In this cavernous space, concrete ramps led us lower below ground with views of the slurry wall and a large piece of steel at the point of impact. After walking past the “survivors staircase” we arrived at the C-4 level, seven stories below the plaza above.
We then explored the South Tower area, encompassing the memorial area. In this space, photos of the 3,000 victims of both the 1993 and 2001 attacks. After viewing the film: Rebirth at Ground Zero, we saw the remnants of the box columns and the bedrock in the South Tower.
Heading to the main historical exhibition, we passed mangled steel from the point of impact, one of the radio towers and other artifacts from that day. The main exhibit “September 11, 2001” gives visitors an overview of the events leading up to, the day and the aftermath of September 11. Voices recalling the events are heard throughout the exhibit.
In retrospect, I wish we’d explored this area first. Although we could have spent more time, we were both getting overwhelmed with facts and details. We left the museum after spending 2 hours.
The museum’s website, offers lesson plans for youth and gives recommendations on what parts are suitable for children. I recommend that everyone check out the website beforehand to get an overview and refresher of 9/11.
My daughter’s reaction to the museum was that it was sad. My comment back to her was, “As it should be.”
The Memorial Plaza
Outside we saw the 8-acre memorial area. Two reflecting pools where the towers once stood are the main attraction. Engraved on the sides are the names of each victim from both attacks. Water pours from the inside walls into the deep center recess. These one-acre each pools are considered to be the largest man-made waterfalls in the U.S.
9/11 Tribute Center
Not to be confused with the National 9/11 Memorial Museum is the 9/11 Tribute Center. Located just a block away, this museum offers guided tours by survivors of 9/11. Additionally, a gallery displays an even more personal glimpse into the lives of the victims. Since we had inadvertently purchased a Groupon for the gallery, we briefly visited. More details can be found at their website here.