Column: Visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum


Today, in the last (for now) look at often-overlooked places in New York City, we visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, remembering the 2,977 people killed at the site  by the Sept.11, 2001, attack and the six killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

President Barack Obama and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg dedicated the memorial and museum on May 15, 2004. The memorial includes a wooded park on the World Trade Center site, with two 1-acre reflecting pools occupying the footprints of the destroyed twin towers. The names of the 2,983 victims are inscribed on 152 bronze panels on the pools, which include the world’s largest man-made waterfalls, masking city noises. The museum occupies 110,000 square feet beneath the park, extending to bedrock 70 feet below ground level. Visitors descend to Foundation Hall, the largest section of the museum, on a ramp adjacent to a stairway that 9/11 survivors took to safety, moved to the underground museum after being recovered largely intact.

At the bottom of the ramp is an evocative work by artist Spencer Finch, comprising 2,983 individual paper panels of varying shades of sky blue, with a quote from Virgil: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” Along one side of Foundation Hall is a slurry wall that was designed to hold back the Hudson River from the towers and survived the attack. Among the 14.000 artifacts on display are a fire engine destroyed in the attack and the 36-foot-tall Last Column, the final column removed from the wreckage that includes a variety of inscriptions and messages. Twisted steel beams reflect the enormous temperatures from burning fuel that led to the towers’ collapse.  For me, the most sobering part of the visit was the chance to talk with survivors, who volunteer to recount the horrors of Sept. 11.