An educational trip to New York: Exploring the 9/11 Memorial Museum
Published: September 11th 2014
Unnerving scenes witnessed through TV screens could only tell part of the horrors the City of New York faced on September 11th 2001. The harrowing events from that fateful day had a far-reaching impact not only on the lives of the families who lost loved ones but on the political world. This act of terror on one nation kick-started a chain reaction of events that have come to define the twenty-first century.
A city standing tall
New York has long had a reputation of producing bold characters whose pride for their hometown has seen the label of ‘Greatest City on Earth’ attach itself to the Big Apple. It has created an image of strength, integrity and a can-do attitude amongst the people of this East Coast city. Following the attacks of 9/11, these characteristics shone through into the community spirit that pulled together this huge melting pot of cultures.
Following the unveiling of the 9/11 Memorial on September 11th 2011, the Museum opened in May this year. The National September 11 Memorial Museum serves to document the events of 9/11, the implications of the events and the lasting impact of that day in New York. The museum has also become a symbol for paying tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims of these attacks on the World Trade Centre and those who worked to save others.
Beyond a museum experience
Covering the 110,000 square feet of the exhibition floor, students can explore the vast collection of displays and artefacts that are a reminder of 9/11. The museum is split between two main halls covering the historical exhibition, located in the footprint of the north tower, and the memorial exhibition (‘In Memoriam’), located in the footprint of the south tower. Both exhibitions represent contrasting but important stances on the events of 9/11. The historical exhibition looks to examine the events of the day, life before 9/11 and the aftermath which continues to impact on our world. Amongst the narratives and multimedia displays, there are reminders of the February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre. Seeing the tail-end of a battered fire engine caught under the massive tower structures, twisted steel frames and huge cement structures conjures a daunting image of events at Ground Zero. Walking through the museum, these authentic artefacts stand as a scary reality of the devastation and scale of this disaster.
The ‘In Memoriam’ exhibition honours the lives lost on 9/11 and looks to appreciate the way in which they lived their lives over the way they were taken. A wall of pictures representing those lost in the smoke, fire and collapsed structures tells a thousand stories of lives led as fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. This exhibition reiterates the fact that there is a great deal to be learnt from a visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum which extends beyond political fallout. Lessons on compassion and communities uniting at all levels (local, national, international) are clear as is the recovery the City of New York which has seen rebuilding to stabilise neighbouring structures and to commemorate the city’s loss.
The permanent exhibitions continue to grow with various additions including photographs, memorabilia and even personal effects included. Oral histories from family members, first responders, local residents and survivors can be heard at the museum. Each providing their own insight into the events, the people and personal take on the day and aftermath. The exhibitions go a long way to revealing the experiences of various people and demonstrating the consequences of terrorism.
The 9/11 Memorial
Of course, by the Memorial Museum sits the Memorial remembering those killed in the terror events of September 11th, 2001 including the flights that crashed in Shanksville (PA) and the Pentagon. The two huge pools contain the largest manmade waterfalls in North America and have the names of those who lost their lives etched along the bronze panels surrounding each tower footprint. Reflecting the largest loss of life from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest loss of recovery workers in US history, the Memorial provides students with humbling surroundings to digest all they have seen on their visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum site.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum along with the Memorial itself not only sit as a tribute to the many lives lost but is representative of the extraordinary compassion amongst the global community found in the aftermath. Upon visiting the Museum and seeing the various artefacts that represent many roles and many people, students can raise their own questions and even leave their thoughts at the Museum as a recording for others to hear. With such a widespread impact on a global community, it seems fitting that the exhibition area is located at the epicentre of the former World Trade Centre site which brought together people from around the world. A powerful and thought-provoking experience to all that can bring about a very personal sense of loss, yet provide an all-encompassing take on the events and the legacy of this tragedy.