Reflections on the 9/11 Memorial and Museum



A few weeks ago, my older daughter Victoria and I paid a brief visit to Manhattan. Vicki's been giving some thought to going to New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (still a few years to go for that) but one thing we wanted to make certain of was that she'd be comfortable with the city itself - she'd only been there once before, and that almost ten years ago.

Overall it was a great trip. She fell in love with the city. I got to meet someone from my virtual gaming group for coffee - it's always nice to really meet with people I initially get to know via email, social media, and webcams. I'm looking forward to meeting a number of people next June at North Texas RPG Con.

One thing I wanted to make certain we did was spend some time at the World Trade Center. For Vicki  (and her younger sister, Jasmine, who chose to stay home in Massachusetts with mom), 9/11 will always be a matter of history. We first found out Vicki was on the way on the Saturday after 9/11.

I'm not going to make the offensive claim that 9/11 hit me harder than other people - thankfully I lost no one I knew on that awful day. But like pretty much every American who was old enough to be aware as to what was going on, it was a horrible day. I'm originally from New York City and my grandfather had taken me to the World Trade Center countless times. As I grew older I learned he didn't particularly care for the Twin Towers, an attitude shared by old timer New Yorkers. He loved the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. But he loved his grandchildren. The last time he took me there I was around 15 and he tried to get me up to the observatory as 12 and under for a reduced rate - one of the more humiliating moments of my youth now that I think of it.


The memorial itself is beautiful and painful - a pair of wounds where the Twin Towers used to be with the names of all the victims. On a victim's birthday, a white rose is placed next to his or her name. Looking up, one can see the new One World Trade Center. It really drove home to Vicki what was once there as I asked her to picture the two pools both rising nearly as high as 1 WTC.







The 9/11 Museum was another experience. It is located primarily under the Memorial, with remnants of the Twin Towers visible such as the "bathtub" walls. It memorializes those who died and the first responders. It brings back memories of that day, with news footage, people describing how they learned, etc. 







 There was also much to celebrate the Twin Towers - their construction, the "man on a wire" incident - Philippe Petit's tightrope crossing. I talked with a volunteer who told me how he witnessed it on just a normal workday, seeing Petit going back and forth. We got a laugh at my grandfather's proud disdain of the towers. Had he lived to 9/11, he'd've nevertheless been crushed to see them destroyed with so many innocent lives taken with them - they might have been in his view ugly towers, but they were his (and other New Yorkers') ugly towers.

There was also some beautiful, haunting, and horrifying artwork - most of it being all three at once. For whatever reason, Ejay Weiss's images of the sky through the towers stuck with me the most. The weather here near Boston was similar to that of New York City on September 11, 2001 - a beautiful day with a gorgeous blue sky.


It was a difficult trip for both of us. For me, it was a way to remember what was lost. For Vicki, it made it real for her in a way that all the school assemblies and videos never could.

Reading what I wrote, I see I focus a lot on both beauty and pain - which seems apt for the experience. The 9/11 attacks were horrible - 2,977 people were murdered that day by 19 terrorists who turned commercial airplanes into weapons. Many more were injured. In the years that followed, thousands fell victim to 9/11 related sicknesses, some fatally so. It's hard to find anything good from that day. But I think of people who when they saw burning buildings, chose to run into them in the hopes of saving people. I think of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 who denied the terrorists a complete victory, with the plane crashing far short of its objective. On balance though, I'm still struck by what a horror that day was, with so many whose lives were cut tragically short.

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