Location: New York City.
Upon buying my ticket, I had no idea what to expect. The security at the entrance was the same as what you’d find at an airport; shoes off, all possessions in the bin for an X-ray, and me standing in the booth with hands in the air as I got scanned…
The above-ground portion of the museum isn’t much more than a lobby with escalators at one end, and the security area near the entrance at the other end. It is a somewhat generic start to the experience. After descending the main stairs, however, I began to realize the scale of this huge, multi-level, subterranean museum, often appearing like something out of science fiction, and attempting to tell the story of the former WTC buildings and the people who were in them, or near them, on that day. It sits under (and between) the reflecting pools which sit on the site of the original buildings.
There are larger items on display in the main cavern, and two individual sub-museums are located in the footprints of the original buildings, both sitting 70 feet underground. A section of the original slurry wall, which kept the river from seeping into the foundation, still stands in place. Photography is not allowed in the smaller museums, but I was free to shoot in the surrounding area.
As you would expect, it’s hard to experience this place without reliving some of the feelings of that day back in 2001. Regardless of the number of visitors, the entire place is quiet. People watch, and listen, and read, and experience that day through many different presentations, displays, and tributes, and it is mostly done in silence. For two hours I heard no cell phones, no screaming kids, and no disruptions of any kind. The workers are prompt and polite. This area is treated by everyone in attendance with the respect it deserves, and it adds to the overall experience.
At one point, as you walk through one of the museums, you hear audio of phone messages left by employees working in the towers in the early minutes of the disaster; a call home to their family regarding a situation they weren’t quite sure about. Later, you sit in small theaters and hear audio accounts from employees, firefighters, EMS personnel, and police officers who made it out alive. Their location in the original buildings is projected on the wall as each story is told. Hearing the voices of those involved, with no other focus, really creates an emotional impact.
Throughout the museum, video screens replay relevant media coverage. A nearly unimaginable range of relics recovered from the rubble are on display, everything from an entire fire truck, to individual post-it notes written by former employees. Thousands of photographs document every conceivable aspect. In one area, the walls are covered with photographs of everyone who was killed in the WTC collapse, the Pentagon, the plane crash in Shanksville Pennsylvania, and the 1993 WTC bombing.
As I walked through the entire memorial and museum, I was constantly in awe of not only the work that went into cleaning up the site in the first place, but also with the effort in designing and building this tribute. After 15 years the event still seems unimaginable. Even as someone who watched from a distance, standing there (in person) proved that the memories were closer to the surface than I had previously expected. Bottom line… if you are visiting New York City, you should see this. And don’t plan on breezing through in an hour or less. It takes some time to get the most out of it. Admission price is $24. Tissues are provided.
NYC Gallery: www.danielkusko.com/Travels/New-York-City/