A Dark Day Relived: Visiting the World Trade Centre Memorial & Museum
As you approach the site of where the World Trade Centre once stood, you can immediately feel a haunting chill in the back of your neck. You begin to feel uneasy with the sight of two big gaping holes in the ground where two architectural behemoths once stood. The Twin Towers were a symbol of American strength, financial muscle and one of the defining images of New York City. That was until one day it all came crashing down. As you look at the thousands of names carved into the memorial wall of each building, you begin to cast your mind back. Everybody the world over, knows where they were when the news broke. It is an event that effected people not just in New York, or America, but several nationalities across the world.
World Trade Centre Memorial
Visiting the World Trade Centre Memorial is a truly humbling experience. One of the first sights you see as you walk through the entrance doors of the museum is the wreckage of one of the many Fire Engines that were destroyed in the line of duty. Fire engines that were carrying dozens of incredibly brave people who lost their lives trying to help others escape to safety. All across the walls of the opening corridors, you can see television screens playing (on a continuous loop) the moment when the news broke to the American public.
Seeing again, the reactions of news reporters on breakfast television shows, along with their guests, reacting with slacked jaws as they see what is unfolding in real time before them. You can see them become lost for words as they attempt to provide a verbal description of their viewership are being subjected to.
The walls are covered with quotes that gain your full attention, you find yourself struggling to read what is front of you but at the same time, you simply cannot stop yourself. Quotes from newspaper articles, testimonies of both survivors and the families of people who lost their lives. Scattered all around the opening parts of the memorial, you could see full grown adults (men and women) holding tissues close to their face as they struggled to contain their emotions.
Then something striking hits you. A quotation from the Ancient Roman poet Virgil ‘No Day Shall Erase you from the Memory of Time”. This is the last section of the World Trade Centre Memorial Museum that allows you to take photos and what follows next is a something that no amount of time could ever mentally prepare you for.
As you pass through a glass door, with a security man ensuring that you have to way of photographically documenting what you are seeing, you begin to see that the walls portray a chronological timeline to the events of 9/11. From the normality that would be associated with the start of any regular normal working today, all seems normal. Then you experience the extent of the first chaotic reactions of regular citizens and emergency services. The whole event is dissected in such great detail that you really don’t know how to react. A walk around this portion of the museum will leave you more in a state of shock than anything else.
Encased in glass, you can see the charred remains of clothing that had been abandoned by people who had attempted to flee the scene and also, pages with notes written by trapped New Yorkers, thrown down from the top floors of both towers pleading for help. Probably the most striking of all preserved exhibits, would be the huge portions of the warped metal structures of each tower that have been preserved, showing the full effect that the force of impact had when the plane did actually strike it’s target.
Pieces of the plane are on show for all to see. When you manage to remind yourself in your head that this chunk of metal changed the world, you start to feel the symbolic power of the materials you are surrounded by.
The final part of the tour, and probably the part that will test your emotions the most, is the exhibition of the human elements of this disaster from all sides.
Firstly, there are telephones that play an accumulated audio of voicemails that have been sent to victims by their, checking to see if their loved ones are safe. On the other side, there are also audio segments of people on the planes leaving their final goodbyes to the people closest to them. The tone of their voice is truly haunting.
Secondly, you are able to hear audio segments of the various different outbound calls made by emergency services desperately trying to find their way out safely with the people they had gone in to bring to safety. As they come to realise that there escape routes are blocked off by flames, rubble, etc. you begin to hear dejection set in.
Lastly, the perpetrators, seeing them pass through the security gates of their outbound flight with cold emotionless expressions on their face, really makes it hard to fathom how anybody could ever decide that something like what they did was the best course of action for achieving their goals.
As you leave the World Trade Centre memorial, your perspective of the city changes completely. You will point your head to the sky and imagine what it must have been like to experience that split second where you realise a plane is directly overhead. You will begin dust clouds that rushed through the streets of Lower Manhattan and the sight of thousands of injured New Yorkers attempting to make their way to freedom by any way they could. The way you see the city around you will change, but it will also make you appreciate what you have in your own life so much more.
When experiencing the World Trade Centre Memorial, it’s nearly better to attempt to forget whatever wider politics surrounded this issue. What this exhibition is, is a symbol of defiance. An example of how a city that consists of people from all different ethnicities, religions and nationalities, can stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of mindless evil.
If you are travelling to New York, be sure to include a visit to the World Trade Centre Memorial and Museum. It is truly one of the most profoundly emotional experiences you will ever have.