Wednesday, November 12, 2014

9/11 Memorial

After loading up on Hershey's chocolate, I headed for New Jersey to see friends that I had worked with in Peoria.  They still work in the same company, but are on assignment in New Jersey.  I stayed with one of them and his family and it was so good to catch up and see their little guy.  He's grown so much! It's so fun to see my friends' kids on this trip and to see their own little personalities developing with traits from mom and dad.  

I had a free day on Thursday and they helped me drop off my car for a long overdue oil change and then catch the train into the big city, New York.  I planned to visit the new 9/11 memorial as the last time I was in NYC was almost 10 years ago and there was still a large hole in the ground.  I heard it took maybe 2-3 hours to do the visit, so I thought also of trying to go to Ellis Island (I think it was closed during my last visit).  Well, I would say plan your time wisely.  I barely got in the memorial before catching the last express train back to NJ before rush hour hits.

I've done lots of trains outside the US, but I still get a little nervous making sure I get the train right when I'm in the US.  I think I feel pressure because people don't know (well, they probably do) that I'm a tourist since I'm American.  Therefore, I should know what to do.  Maybe that's a reason I find it easier to travel abroad - no one would expect me to know anything because I'm clearly not local. :)  This is how my mind thinks sometimes.....anyway.....

The memorial was very moving.  I'm notoriously slow in museums and this was no exception.  I think I arrived late on a Thursday morning and it was raining lightly (by the way, I love my rain jacket).  I was surprised how many people were still there.  Many I believe visiting from other countries.  I suggest to buy a ticket online in advance.  I had to wait in a line (ended up booking on my phone while waiting in line).  I think I got an entrance time for 12:30, which was an hour or more from the time when I purchased it and you can only start lining up half an hour before your entrance time. If it had been a nice day, I'm not sure how long the wait would have been.

Once in, there's a natural flow from one exhibit to the next.  However, there is information on all sides, so you're trying to see everything (or I was).  There is a timeline that moves along one wall and has recordings playing, pictures, videos, etc. that outline the morning of September 11, 2001 and what happened minute by minute.  But if you only follow the timeline on one wall, you'll have to go back later and check out the exhibits on the other wall (note that it isn't super easy to do this other than to turn around and head back into the rooms you just left).  

You can't see it really well, but the picture above has the four flight patterns mapped out and the times highlighted.  This is the first thing you see as you walk through the museum and then you walk into pictures from the day.  

This wall was interesting from an engineering standpoint. When the first World Trade Center was built, they had to figure out how to keep the Hudson River out since it was so close.  They built a slurry wall, like a giant retaining wall, which is preserved from its original state here. There was some worry during 9/11 that the wall would be breached. They must have done a really good job back in 1966 (or thereabouts) because it held.  Had it not, there would have been major flooding and made the catastrophe that much worse.
This is 'the last column'. During clean up, it was designated as the last column and became a symbol to mark the occasion of when the last piece was removed. The messages you see are from recovery workers, first responders, volunteers and victims' relatives and include written words, photographs and other tributes.

This was a huge wall along one of the halls in the museum and is a collection of the sky.  People were asked to create a tile that reflected the color of the sky on 9/11 and they are brought together here.

One of the fire trucks that was a first responder and was damaged during the fall of one of the towers.

These were the actual steel beams along the outside of one of the towers which were pierced by one of the planes.  There is a plaque to show you where from the buildings these beams were and they also have the bottom half below to give you an idea of the size of the hole ripped into the building.

This is a close up of one of the steel beams that was welded together. You can see how it was just bent, twisted and torn apart. It's hard to comprehend the power needed to do this.

 Original foundations of the previous beams. You can see the original outlines of both the north and south towers throughout the bottom floor of the museum.

This is a chunk of one of the buildings - they could not determine which one. "Forensic experts identify it as consisting of the compacted and heat-fused remains of approximately five floors." (from the museum plaque) There was no evidence of human remains, but based on what they can tell from the examination, they aren't sure it would be possible to identify any human remains if they did exist. I found it unbelievable that five floors were compacted into this chunk that was maybe half my height.

The museum is underground. Above ground, there are two (what I will call) wells that represent the footprints of each tower. There is water running down in waterfalls along the edge and names of the victims encircle the top of the wells.

This is the Survivor Tree - a pear tree that was severely damaged at Ground Zero, removed, rehabilitated and now returned to its home.

It has come a long way.
Some people had left flags in some names along the wall. The names are cut out of the top layer and there's a gold color underneath that shines through.  I was told at night it is especially moving.

Most everyone visiting was respectful.  It was pretty quiet throughout the museum.  There were rooms where you could listen to the phone calls or voice mails left by people to their loved ones. Or the calls by people made to 911. It really puts things into perspective.  If you're in NYC, allow a good portion of your day and go to visit this memorial and museum.

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