Russ and I meandered over to New York City last week. We didn’t plan it, but our trip ended up being 9-11 themed. Our first experience was a visit to the 9-11 Memorial and Museum.
The dim lights and the quiet struck me as we entered the museum. This was hallowed ground. Visitors treaded lightly and spoke softly. We met our tour guide in the lobby and she took us down, down, down into the excavation pit of the World Trade Center buildings.
The heavy ghost of all the rubble that had filled the space and piled above it was an emotional and physical weight. Our guide showed us the slurry wall that held back the river from flooding the space, the square-edged outlines of the waterfalls that flowed in the memorial outside, the wreckage of the fire trucks, and the last cement column that survived the building collapse, festooned with first-responder graffiti.
The most awe-full artifact for me was the impact steel from the North Tower, which was the one hit first. Mounted on the wall like a crucifix with a stark light upon it, the mangled steel beams hung as a testament to the power of the plane that crashed into the building and began the nightmare.
People showed different emotions to these sights. Some were crying, some were dazed. Everyone was somber.
Our tour guide explained that her brother worked in the World Trade Buildings. He only escaped death that day because, at the last moment, he decided to go to the optometrist to get his glasses fixed instead of heading up the tower.
Tour over, we were free to wander among the artifact exhibits on our own. I was drawn to the information about the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, because I was in Pennsylvania when 9-11 happened. A timeline of those events was on display along with text of the plane cockpit recordings.
Also powerful and haunting were the voicemail messages left for loved ones from those who worked in the tower after the plane(s) crashed into them.
After all that heaviness, I was glad to get outside into the memorial area. But even the memorial is heavy, with all the names of the dead inscribed around the waterfalls that flow into the building pits. We found the name of a man who had been in a relative’s wedding party.
The other 9-11-themed thing we did was attend the Broadway show, “Come From Away.” Although poignant at times, this experience was much more enjoyable than the museum. The musical tells the story of the townspeople of Gander, Newfoundland. This village of 10,000 people hosted 7,000 airplane travelers who got grounded on 9-11 for several days.
The Newfies welcome the confused travelers like only Newfies could – with generosity, caring, music, and whisky. The show offered 100 minutes of humanity and hopefulness. The audience gave it a standing ovation at the end. If you have a chance to see “Come From Away,” by all means, do so!