By Joanne Colella
Each month, our Day Trip page focuses on fun, entertaining, and lighthearted destinations that are an easy distance from our area, offering activities or attractions for every age group. This month’s topic is more somber, but certainly no less important a place to visit, whether one were to go this month or at any other time, now or in the future. It is of particular significance for residents of our area and a recommended site for all ages – both for the older individuals among us who still remember that fateful day in our history 15 years ago, and for the youth of this and future generations, so they will learn about and recognize those who were lost.
This special destination is the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, located at the site of the World Trade Center Towers – which sadly became known as Ground Zero – in New York City. Designed as a national tribute of remembrance and honor to the thousands of men, women, and children killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 as well as the attack on February 26, 1993, construction began in 2006 and the memorial opened on the tenth anniversary of September 11, followed later by the opening of the museum.
The National September 11 Memorial, the design of which was selected from over 5,200 entries from 63 countries all around the world, is the centerpiece of the eight-acre property. Its twin reflecting pools, in the footprints of the lost Towers, are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest manmade waterfalls in North America – each abyss illustrating the huge void left by all that was lost and “Reflecting Absence.” The names of every one of the nearly 3,000 people killed on September 11 at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, along with those of the six people killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, are inscribed in bronze panels that line the memorial pools. The surrounding plaza includes more than 400 trees to symbolize hope and renewal, including one known as the “Survivor Tree.” The damaged tree was found in the wreckage at Ground Zero and nursed back to health, rebounding from an eight-foot stump to a blossoming, 30-foot sign of resilience and survival.
The National September 11 Memorial Museum is the global focal point for preserving the history of the events of September 11. The 110,000-square-foot exhibition space is located in the archeological heart of the World Trade Center site and documents the history and impact of the attacks, explores their continuing implications, and showcases a collection of both monumental and personal artifacts, first-person accounts, and multimedia presentations. One of the overwhelming core exhibitions is “In Memoriam,” which honors the victims and includes portraits of every man, woman, and child who perished. A quiet chamber offers profiles of individual victims to bear witness to their lives.
Among the poignant artifacts are the so-called “Survivors’ Stairs,” a remnant of the Vesey Street staircase, down which hundreds fled and escaped with their lives. There are also portions of structural columns of the original Twin Towers and other building elements. Most heartbreaking of all are the personal items, letters, photos, clothing, memorabilia, and more that have been contributed by those who survived – and by the loved ones of those who did not.
Besides remembering the victims, the museum also honors the thousands who survived and those who demonstrated extraordinary compassion, courage, and service in the aftermath during the search for victims and the efforts to rebuild. Each and every item in this powerful display is meant to remind the onlooker that “We Will Never Forget.”
Admittedly, a visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum can be a difficult and emotional one, particularly for those of us for whom the memories remain fresh in our minds and hearts. But the testimonial is moving and the learning experience is vital. Visitors are welcome to explore the museum at their own pace; an average visit takes about two hours. If you would like to first explore online, the memorial and museum’s website – www.911memorial.org – is a tremendous resource. It provides a wealth of information on every facet of the project, the events that transpired, audio and video presentations, interactive timelines, guidelines for visitors, lesson plans and teaching guides for students of every grade level, and how to purchase tickets and get involved or donate to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Usually, the September 11 Memorial is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The September 11 Museum is also open daily, with hours from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Last entry is two hours prior to closing.
This month, on September 10, the last public entry to the museum will be at 4:30 p.m., so it can open to the September 11 community from 5:00 to close. On September 11, the memorial will be open to September 11 family members only from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and open to the public from 3:00 p.m. until midnight for viewing of the Tribute in Light. That same day, the museum will be closed to the public and open to September 11 family members only from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.