National September 11 Memorial Museum opens


This week the 9/11 Memorial Museum opened in lower Manhattan. Few events have had such a striking impact on travel and travel policy as the attack on the Twin Towers. Since that date, airline transportation has not been the same, to say the least.

TSA was formed. Body scanners capable of seeing hair on particularly private parts of our body found their way into airports. Americans lined up to be frisked, patted down or groped, depending on who was describing the security protocol. Eventually, liquids were banned from being brought from the outside onto airplanes. We have to pay a security fee (that just more than doubled) for the privilege of the search. And, the actions in response to the 9/11 attacks will resonate for years as TSA employees begin receiving retirement and budgets grow.

This memorial will be a tribute to tragedy on 9/11. After 13 years of engineering challenges, the National September 11 Memorial Museum opened its doors to the public in New York City on Wednesday, May 21. It consists of a series of subterranean exhibition halls and a pair of reflecting pools.

Architectural Digest calls the structure powerful.

The museum’s interiors descend some 70 feet to bedrock, reaching the foundations of the original World Trade Center. Here, the primary displays are divided between the footprints of the twin towers. Vestiges of these fallen skyscrapers are among the gathered artifacts and records, which range from audiotape of last phone calls to some of the charred documents that clouded lower Manhattan.

It is challenging content, emotionally, to experience, but also important to see. For as pronounced as the sense of sadness and loss may be, a resilient spirit courses through these spaces, testaments all to our nation’s ability to rebuild.

The exhibitions bring visitors back to that day when the towers fell through videos, sound clips, photos and debris that was collected from the site as reconstruction began. The museum serves as a memorial but also as a platform describing the terror attack and the renaissance of the building.

With more than 10,000 objects, 23,000 images and 500 hours of film and video, the 110,000-square-foot Memorial Museum opens with a collection and square footage to match many substantial museums. That’s why the museum, along with the memorial, cost a staggering $700 million, requiring a $24 adult admission and a $60 million annual budget that’s far from fully endowed. At such a scale, it cannot entirely avoid grandiosity.

A dark ramp that descends 70 feet to just above bedrock previews Foundation Hall, which looks from above like a cavernous half-lighted archaeological dig. (Thinc Design and Local Projects are the lead exhibition-design firms.) It is dominated by a 36-foot-high steel column that was the last to be removed from the site. It is covered with mementos placed by ironworkers, rescue personnel and others.

The exhibition is dense with hundreds of artifacts: uniforms, helmets, gloves, a melted telephone from the Pentagon. Along with the monumentally horrifying photos of flames and bent metal that have been ubiquitous since the event, you will find burned papers that fluttered through the air as the planes hit. Videos follow first responders heading into the towers. A security tape shows people pushed out of a building entrance by the dense cloud of debris propelled by one of the collapsing towers.

The exhibition does not stint on the day’s most horrifying moments. You can hear voices of police officers and firefighters trying to help people while looking for a way out. You can look at photos of people jumping from the towers, accompanied by a quote from an onlooker who felt she had to bear witness in honor of people who had no choice. Not everyone will agree. Alcoves conceal this most disturbing material from visitors who want to avoid it. (It is certainly not for children.)

Click here for a Timeline of Events from 9/11.

This link takes users to Google StreetView of the Memorial.

Here is a time-lapse view of the building of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.