A visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in lower Manhattan in New York City was something we wanted to do but dreaded.
We quickly discovered the representation of one of the most horrendous events in the history of the United States was well done with a factual account interlaced with compassion and feeling.
We walked in the remnants and columns of the original foundation and the footprint where the majestic Twin Towers of the World Trade Center had stood. We walked near a portion of the Versey Street “Survivors Stairs” which thousands used to survive the monstrous attacks.
A wall of photos with interactive computer terminals held images of those who lost their lives that day, not only in New York City, but also at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and in a field in Pennsylvania, as well as a previous attack on the towers in 1993.
We searched and found the photos and information about Clarke County residents, Bud and Dee Flagg, who were on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. We had known them through mutual friends and shared the loss of two great community members.
The atmosphere was somber but not oppressive. It told the story exactly as we remembered with news clips, artifacts, and many video accounts. An ambulance that had sped to the towers to assist is part of the exhibit to display the magnitude of the damage.
Our visit was very moving as we remembered the many times we had visited the Twin Towers when we drove to the Big Apple a couple of times each year.
We would start our visit after a five-hour drive, pulling into a parking lot or if lucky into an on-street spot near the Towers. We trekked to the buildings in search of a cup of coffee and then headed to the elevators to reach the top.
Often we walked around on the top floor which had windows encircling the space. Writing on the glass would point out the highlights of the city. The Statue of Liberty in the harbor reminded me of my Italian grandparents who had entered the country through Ellis Island more than 100 years ago.
On a clear, windless day the outside deck was open and you could walk on top of the building — an amazing feeling. I would stay in the center of the walkway with a brave face not to show any fear of heights. I thought of the French man who walked on a high-wire between the towers in 1974 and how brave he had to be to perform such an incredible feat.
When the terrorist attack took place that horrible day, 9-11-2001, we were stunned, shocked, dismayed, and perturbed by the sheer magnitude of what we watched unfold. We had stood on those very floors that came tumbling down in a matter of minutes.
My husband wanted to go the weekend after the attacks, but I did not think it was a good idea. We waited a few months before going back. We visited many times after the attacks, watching as the work a the site progressed.
I had accompanied a high school student tour many years ago, and we took the students to the World Trade Center. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and were absolutely amazed at the mass of humanity streaming from the floors of the center. That image stayed with me as I watched the attacks unfolding and the horrible aftermath and thought of those thousands of people trying to get out.
This past summer, we knew was the right time to visit the museum. We went online and got tickets for the Saturday morning we would be there. We were first in line when it opened.
It is a grim reminder of what can happen in this period of history as terrorist attacks have become more common, but also a beacon of hope that we can rebuild as the new tower recently opened.
The attacks did not stop this country and did not ruin us. We keep on and never fade. One of the greatest cities in the one of the greatest countries in the world survived and is even stronger.
For more info, visit 911memorial.org.