Thursday, July 9, 2015
Almost two weeks ago I had the chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City with my middle daughter. I had wanted to do this since it opened last spring (2014). My friend Vernoy Paolini is a docent, but unfortunately she was not working that day, but through some quick text messages she was able to walk us through some key ins and outs. We had purchased tickets ahead of time which allowed us and easy entrance at 1:00. I have since learned a 9:00 ticket will result in less crowds. In New York though you have to allow time for transportation and traffic, but truly it is easy to get to the World Trade Center via the subway. I had visited St. Paul's Chapel on a previous visit. This became a refuge center during the days, weeks, and months after 9/11-a place for all the rescue workers to get some much deserved R and R. It is a miracle that this very old stone church although very close to Ground Zero was not damaged. Unfortunately, the chapel was closed that day for an event. I did notice a guided tour was going on and overheard the tour leader mention how long the fires burned in the days after 9/11. I mentally put this on my to-do list for a return visit. While we waited we toured the two waterfalls/memorials with the names of the nearly 3,000 lost on 9/11/2001-all-not just at The World Trade Center, but from the Pentagon and Shanksville as well. In addition those lost in the previous terrorist attack of 1993 are inscribed. I have to say my only disappointment that day was the behavior of some folks at the Memorial. Thousands lost their lives there so I feel like it is a place of remembrance and not necessarily silence, but quiet respect. Enough said. The unique feature of this memorial is that the museum strives to be just that-both a memorial and a museum-a tall task indeed, but one that is pulled off quite well. Another unique feature is you are at Ground Zero. When you enter the museum you descend a staircase-into Ground Zero. I will not share lots as I feel like this should be a personal experience and individuals are drawn to what interests them. It is very emotional at times and you will observe people in various states of sadness. There are so many exhibits that bring back a flood of memories of the day that defined a generation and really our country. What is hard for some younger folks to probably remember or understand is that we had other technology in 2001, but we were glued to our televisions. The images. The people. We perhaps all have one that is embossed in our memories (or maybe several). For me it is the image of hundreds of people (maybe more) crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. The stories of survivors are poignant. One man's shoes are there. He survived and walked five miles to his daughter's home in Brooklyn, but left his shoes on the doorstep so as not to startle his grandchildren. Such humanity. You have probably heard there is an image/photograph of all who were lost-which is just too much for words. You are able digitally to see and in some cases hear information about each of them. So moving. So many stories. Their names are read as well. I learned not long after 9/11 that I had lost two cousins-I had never met them-they were distant-maybe third, fourth, or fifth cousins. When my father told me I almost doubted him as he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's. I am embarrassed to say that. I went on a website and "found" them-two brothers-both from New Jersey-both young men with families-both worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. Andrew Clive Gilbert and Timothy Paul Gilbert. They had been raised in England. Then in one of those rare coincidences that my friend Alison Crowther, (the mother of 9/11 hero Welles Crowther-look for his red bandanna when you go-)tells me are not so rare....my friend Vernoy-in yet another series of text messages informed me that just the week before my visit-she had met friends from England of the Gilbert brothers. She is going to give me their address. So this visit became personal for me, but truly it is personal for all. The major take away for me was a single word-resilience. How did New Yorkers-especially hit by 9/11-go on-move on-get on with their lives? A large chunk of their city was destroyed. That paled in comparison to their spirit. There are many stories of this resilience as well, but again I urge you to go and create your own experiences and take aways.