The good, the bad and the unforgettable – Celebrating the Human Spirit in the 911 aftermath, 13 years on.
One of the reasons we travel is to learn the culture and history of a country and her people. Most often, on the itineraries would be attractions that depict the positive aspects of the country. Occasionally, there would be historical accounts of wars and natural disasters but most would be far too removed in time or remote geographically for us to really feel the impact. Not so, with the 9/11 Memorial Museum, built on Ground Zero, the very site of the unimaginable 911 terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
|A new addition to the NYC skyline that is a symbol of the indomitable human spirit – One World Trade Center.|
9/11 was a most horrific event in modern history that changed the world forever. The incident was so sadly surreal that most of us thought, as we saw the event unfold on the TV, that we were watching either a scene out of the movies or a very bad accident gone wrong. It was not. The moment was so defining; most of us would still vaguely remember what and where we were when the news broke.
True to our mission for travelling, when we knew that our trip to New York would coincide with the opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, we immediately penned it into our itinerary. We were, however, not planning to stay long as we were travelling with our 6 year-old and were hesitant how much of the tragedy we should explain to her. In fact, we were unsure if we were prepared for the waft of emotions that would flood us (having visited the infamous Auschwitz Concentration Camp many years ago and quite shaken by the exhibits we saw.)
In retrospect, we are glad we did. In fact, what was planned as a 2-hour stop turned out to be an full afternoon’s visit.
|‘Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on’…|
|Memorials line the streets leading to Ground Zero.|
As we approached the Memorial Plaza, we saw two huge reflection pools where the foundations of the twin tower once stood. I found myself gritting my teeth as I cannot even begin to fathom the magnitude of the tragedy that took place right here. The endless row of victims’ names – entire families who were on the flights, ordinary folks going about their morning routines in their respective offices, NYPDs and Firefighters who perished in their line of duty – were neatly inscribed across the perimeters of the pools. It’s one thing to read about it in the media, it’s another to be here, at Ground Zero ourselves.
|The very tranquil memorial pools contrasting the horrors that took place right here this day 13 years ago…|
|These are someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, aunty, uncle, cousin and children – 2983 of them in total.|
|These two commemorative reflection pools are built on the actual sites of the twin towers.|
|A new symbol of hope arises from the ruins…|
The destruction to buildings and loss of lives were massive. We saw columns of steel that were bent like butter by the intense heat and pressure. These huge steel columns eventually gave way leading to the collapse of the towers. We saw the remains of the Fire Truck from Ladder Co. 3. What I thought was the back was actually the badly mangled front of the fire truck, crushed by the debris, with the entire company of firemen either trapped IN the collapsing building or IN the fire truck. We saw the remains of the huge telecommunication antenna (which used to define the WTC from afar) and read of how the radio engineers on duty called frantically for help as the intense fires raged towards them. Their desperate plea, “Don’t forget, we have people at the top…”.
|Base of the huge antenna which use to be the apex of the twin towers.|
|Note the actual position (circled) where this antenna once stood.|
|The badly mangled front of the fire truck from Ladder Co 3.|
|Men from this fire truck were one of the first to respond to the 911 calls at Ground Zero…|
|‘The Survivors’ Stairs’ (Left) – one of the few staircases which survivors scurried down to safety. One of the last pieces of the facade (Right) left standing.|
Aside from the obvious solemnity which the memory of the event brings, more importantly, we caught a glimpse of the indefatigable courage of the human spirit. I’m glad we brought Dana with us as we told these tales of bravery to her. Yes, that afternoon, she learnt how these bad men (a.k.a ‘terrorists’) killed so many innocent people as they crashed the planes into the twin towers but we took efforts to emphasize on the bravery and heroism of the firefighters, the policemen, the Chaplain and scores of other first responders and volunteers. While others fled, they rushed in – against all odds, against all hope, the primordial human spirit to do good, to make a positive change, to leave a legacy, shone the brightest during that darkest moments of history.
She saw the Last Column – the final column left standing where names and photos of the Fire Engine Company, Police Squadrons of those who perished, were written, pasted and sprayed on. This was the very column that was the final piece to be ceremonially removed from Ground Zero.
|The Last Column – the last structure left standing at Ground Zero (Left). A tribute to Father Mychal – the chaplain who perished with the firefighters he served (Right).|
|Inside the main hall, underneath the actual 9/11 site.|
|The Last Column with countless loving dedications on it…|
|The Last Column was ceremoniously transported out of Ground Zero, draped in the American Flag.|
She saw the personal items left by these brave souls – crushed helmets, burnt uniforms, damaged fire trucks, bent fire extinguishers…all real artifacts that pieced together many stories of the valour and sacrifice shown by these men, in the face of evil and danger. Before we left, we penned our thoughts on the electronic visitors’ log (a cool touch sensitive screen), which would then broadcast our messages to a large atlas. We left Dana to pen her own message, and this is what she wrote:
|Our 6 year old daughter penning her thoughts at the 911 Memorial Museum…|
|‘No more war and suffering or pain and bad things to happen to USA’ – Dana Joy Sim, Singapore|
|The electronic Memorial Wall where your messages will appear on the atlas according to your country of origins…|
The Ground Zero and 9/11 Memorial Museum are two must-visit places when you are in New York City. It’s not the place to take the usual chirpy, happy selfies but one where the human spirit shines bright and strong; and one where our children can see abstract attributes like bravery, heroism, sacrifice, courage, national pride translated into real-life conrete examples and be inspired. That’s why we travel. May God bless America.
|One of the main steel columns which supported the main structure of the doomed towers…|
|Bent back like butter from the intense heat and pressure of the inferno…|
|‘May we never forget’…|
9/11 Memorial Museum
1, Albany Street
New York, NY 10006
Tel: (212) 312-8800
Admission Fees to the Museum applies. Visits to the exterior Memorial Plaza is Free. It is highly advisable to book your tickets online as purchasing tickets in advance allows you to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum at your preferred date and time (instead of waiting in line). Tickets can be purchased three months in advance. You should devote at least 4 hours to tour the museum.