I had never been to New York when there was no World Trade Center.
Construction on the Twin Towers began in 1966; the first tenants moved in in 1970. My first trip to Manhattan was with my college roommate in 1975. I’ll never forget the look on the face of the New York Cop when, as I climbed the stairs out of the subway, I looked up at the sky and said, (far too loudly!) “Oh my gosh, is this really Greenwich Village???” Not one of my cooler moments…
And it was much later that I learned that in New York, you never look up!
Fast forward a few years to when I was working in lower Manhattan, just a half block south of Trinity Church. I used to wander over to the World Trade Center for lunch and shopping. Working literally in the shadow of the complex, it was easy, especially on dreary winter days to spend my lunch break in what was essentially a mall in lower Manhattan.
A really “special occasion” dinner might warrant a reservation at Windows on the World, the chic restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower that afforded wondrous views not only of New York but New Jersey as well.
Not to be missed
Every out-of-town visitor got a trip up to the top – it was one of the best free things to do in NY. More than 200,000 visitors per year rode the speedy elevators to the 78th floor, then changed, like changing metro trains, but vertically, to continue on to the top. You could feel and hear the wind whistling through the elevator shafts, but it was all part of the awesome experience.
On September 11, 2001, it all changed.
Volumes have been written, so I won’t beleaguer it here. Suffice to say I have never gotten used to seeing the NY skyline without the twin towers. On my one visit to Ground Zero in the ensuing years, I was surprised by my very emotional reaction to being there.
So, it was with some trepidation that I planned a trip to visit the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum.
The day was stunning, not unlike that fateful day fourteen years ago. We waited in a very short queue at the group entry door and passed uneventfully through the airport-style security.
You have the option of a guided tour but there is also an app that you can download to a smartphone. It leads and informs as you go through the museum. Numerous “routes” lead through the various exhibits of the museum.
The bulk of the museum is below street level. Escalators and ramps transport visitors down two levels where the remaining foundations are in clear view. The permanent exhibitions include the Memorial Exhibition that includes photos of the nearly 3000 victims who died there. In addition to the names and pictures on the wall, visitors can use a touchscreen to find out more about each victim.
The Historical Exhibition chronicles the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and includes a history of what led up to that day. It also depicts the history of post-Sept. 11 events – expressions of grief, first-person testimony, recovery, reconstruction.
Foundation Hall is an enormous space that displays the last remaining wall of the North Tower and the Last Column. The Last Column was the final piece of the structure and was removed with great ceremony from the site signifying the end of the search and recovery period. The column, covered with messages and mementos and surrounded by benches, stretches 36 feet into the air and encourages reflection.
The memorial is somber, but not morose. Despite its inherently sad nature, it speaks of resilience, hope, and community. The visit evoked great emotion but at the same time it is a marvelous tribute to everyone who was involved there that day. I would recommend the museum as a “must see” for anyone visiting New York.
To plan a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum visit the website. It is an excellent idea to purchase tickets in advance online. https://www.911memorial.org/