New York City: An emotional visit to Ground Zero

The 9/11Memorial is difficult to photograph, but lovely to see
The 9/11Memorial is difficult to photograph, but lovely to see

ABOARD THE CRYSTAL SERENITY – Yesterday morning we arrived in New York City and our plan for the day consisted of only one activity: To visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum which opened earlier this year in Lower Manhattan at “Ground Zero,” where the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed 13 years ago after a terrorist attack.

While the ship did offer several shore tours that included this, we decided to plan our own visit so we could take all the time we wanted to absorb the huge story that is told here. So we went to www.911memorial.org which provided all the information that we needed.

A picture of the devastation after the attacks of 9/11
A picture of the devastation after the attacks of 9/11

On this website we purchased tickets for access to the museum at a specific time ($18 each for a senior, $24 for ages 18-64, $15 for ages 7-17, 6 and under free) and then we paid $10 more for each of us to join a guided tour. All of that was done in advance and we printed out our entrance tickets before we left home.

We also downloaded the free Museum Audio Guide onto our Iphones and another app dedicated to the Memorial portion of the site.

We left the ship at about 10:15 a.m. and caught a cab down to the site (approximately $15). Traffic moved quickly at that time of day. The weather was lovely, warm temps and sunny skies. The Memorial site is accessible from three sides so it is easy to enter the grounds.

I am sure most of you have seen pictures of the two huge pools that are set in the footprints of the original Twin Towers. Thirty-foot waterfalls – the largest in North America – cascade into the pools, then into a center void. The names of the 2,983 were lost on September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993 (an earlier attack on the World Trade Center) are engraved on bronze walls around the periphery. There are kiosks where visitors can locate the engraved names of specific people honored at the site. The outdoor Memorial plaza is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Pictures do not capture the huge scope of this outdoor Memorial park and of the waterfalls, but I am sharing my favorite here. I would need a helicopter to do better!

This remembrance wall is a piece of art...each paper square is a watercolor in a distinct shade of blue, honoring each person lost the day
This remembrance wall is a piece of art…each paper square is a watercolor in a distinct shade of blue, honoring each person lost the day

At around 11 we entered the Museum through a special line… no waiting because we had tickets. There was a line for people buying tickets but it seemed to be moving quickly.

At 11:15, we met out guide at the designated spot and donned earphones so that we could hear his narration without bothering other visitors. Those of you who have toured on river cruises are familiar with this technology.

For the next hour, we traveled through the entire Museum while he explained the significance of each artifact. He stressed that the mission of the Memorial and Museum are to both preserve the history of the 9/11 attacks as well as to honor each and every single person who was lost that day and those who survived. Some of the pieces of huge… like the slurry wall and twisted steel pillars.. and some are painfully intimate, like the many “Lost” flyers posted around the city in the days following as people searching for missing family members.

A piece of structural steel damaged during the 9/11 attack
A piece of structural steel damaged during the 9/11 attack

But what impressed me the most was a Personal Memorial area where each and every person lost is individually remembered…if you touch the face of the person on an electronic display, first will appear their photo, then a short biography including where they were when they died that day, and then more photos and other memories of them…included remembrances recorded by family members. If you so desire, you can punch a final button to have this person’s remembrance played on a huge screen in a central room lined with benches.

Just sitting in that room and watching these flash by…so personal, so sad, so poignant…will be something I will always remember. I was touched by the stories of two young women who were working as event planners for a corporation having an event in the famous Windows of the World restaurant that day. One was 26, the other 37. They did not escape.

One World Trade Center opens this week at a corner of the site...a sign of rebirth
One World Trade Center opens this week at a corner of the site…a sign of rebirth

On the corner of the large World Trade Center site rises a new building, One World Trade Center. Coincidentally, it opened on Monday of this week with the first occupants moving in. It is a splendid edifice and other buildings are going up all over the area.

The next time you visit New York, whether by ship or not, a visit to this Memorial and Museum should be at the top of the agenda. I did not use my audio tour app while in the museum but I intend to listen to it all again so I can gain an even deeper understanding of all that went on that day and the meaning of this Memorial.

November 4, 2014

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