“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”
—Virgil (70 BC–19 BC, Ancient Roman poet) Virgil’s quote is writ large—15-inch high letters, stretching over 60 feet—as part of the 9|11 Memorial Museum.
Today marks the opening of the 9|11 Memorial Museum, the last piece of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum complex at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.
Fraught with controversy, budget problems, and much dissatisfaction, the 9|11 Memorial Museum was opened on the 15th of May by President Obama. The dedication ceremony was attended by First Lady Michelle Obama; survivors of the 9|11 attacks; loved ones and family members of those who died on that day; and local, as well as national figures, past and present. It is estimated that the museum’s total tab was $700 million; and that its annual operating costs will be $63 million.
Some New Yorkers who lived through the attacks and their aftermath, feel no need to visit the museum or the memorial. They believe that these sights are for future generations and for people from outside New York City. The first-hand experience of 9|11 was enough for some.
I will visit the museum. I visited the memorial on September 12th 2011, the day after it opened. Here are my impressions of that day. Never again can we think of 9|11 as a date rather than a tragedy.
The memorial is made up of two great pools of black granite and cascading water. They cover the footprints of the North and South Towers of the destroyed 1973 World Trade Center, once the tallest buildings in the world. The pools are set in a park of 412 Swamp White Oak trees.
The memorial’s design is the work of Michael Arad; he was chosen from 5,201 competitors He titles the memorial “Reflecting Absence.” It sits 30 feet below street level.
The names of all first responders; of the people who perished at the Twin Towers and at the Pentagon; the passengers of the airplanes that struck the Trade Center, the Pentagon and the plane that crashed at Shanksville, PA; as well as the men and women who died in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center are listed on bronze plaques surrounding each pool.
The bronze name plaques are lit from underneath.
Seeing first responders at the memorial was especially touching.
This simple phrase says it all for New York’s bravest. On 9|11 the FDNY lost 343 firefighters and paramedics; 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers also died.
United Flight 175 was took off from Boston’s Logan Airport, was hijacked and crashed into Tower Two, the South Tower, of the World Trade Center at 09:03.
Mark Bingham (1970–2001) was a passenger on Flight 93. Mr. Bingham and others on the plane took control of it, causing it to crash into a field in Shanksville, PA possibly avoiding a greater tragedy. He was was a public relations executive who had founded his own firm, the Bingham Group. Mr. Bingham was a powerful athlete playing for the gay rugby team, the San Francisco Fog RFC.
Mychal Judge, O.F.M. (1933–2001) was a Franciscan friar and Roman Catholic priest, serving as a beloved chaplain in the Fire Department of New York. Father Judge is listed as #0001 among those who lost their lives on 9|11.
Following his death some came forward to say that Father Judge was gay, as a matter of orientation rather than practice. Father Judge was a member of Dignity, a Catholic gay activist organization advocating for change in the Roman Catholic Church. He often posed the question, “Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?” Rolled strips of rubbing paper and pencils were provided to visitors by the memorial.
These visitors to the 9|11 Memorial brought a medal, a flag, and love for a fallen comrade with them.
Known as the Survivor Tree, this callery pear tree sustained extensive damage, but lived through the 9|11 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. A month after the attack the tree, whose limbs seemed lifeless and its trunk blackened, was found amid piles of smoldering rubble at the World Trade Center Plaza. Originally planted in the 1970s, the damaged tree was taken to the NYC Parks Department’s Arthur Ross Nursery in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx in November 2001. It was nursed back to health and returned to the World Trade Center. Mementoes are left by visitors on the tree.
The Memorial Museum’s Pavilion, which serves as the gateway to the museum, was designed by SNØHETTA. The exhibit portion of the museum, which is entirely below ground, was designed by the architectural firm of Davis Brody Bond.
“The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic, and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.”
—Rudolph Giuliani (1944- ), mayor of New York City when the 9|11 attacks took place